Many people are afraid of advancements in robot technology because of the potential for machines taking over human jobs. But what if you could work alongside robots? Baxter is a robot designed to do just that, focusing primarily on work in factories with humans.
Baxter is 300 pounds, six feet tall and has a tablet for a face. It can work on a light assembly line, pack boxes, and inspect, sort and align parts. The robot doesn't need any actual programming to complete tasks either: you simply have to show Baxter how it's done. The robot will cost factories $25,000 each, which is the average annual salary of a U.S. production worker.
The interface on Baxter is fairly easy to get used to, as you can simply copy and paste commands, change the order of commands and edit commands already in place. Baxter can also communicate with other machines in the factory through an I/O port. This means that Baxter can wait until a factory machine is done to start its task, or directly manipulate other machines.
Most robots similar to Baxter's ability are not safe to work with humans, and most have to be placed in different sections away from workers. Baxter, however, was built with the intent on making it safe. So, if the machine feels resistance from hitting an object with its arm, it will stop immediately to ensure human workers are not injured.
Rethink Robotics is the company behind Baxter, and was founded in 2008 by Rodney Brooks, the co-founder and former CTO of iRobot (most famous for building the Roomba). See how Baxter works in the video below.