Summary:

Rethink Robotics re-tools Baxter the manufacturing robot to be a research assistant. Baxter can be programmed by a human trainer who walks it through its tasks.

Baxter (left) with Rethink Robotics CEO Rodney Brooks.
photo: Barb Darrow

Remember Baxter the Robot? The $22,000 machine  initially built for manufacturing applications can now be repurposed for research tasks, according to Rethink Robotics.

Baxter’s advantages lie in its ability to “learn” tasks from a person who walks it through a series of motions. The trainer need not be a computer programmer. And, because Baxter is sedentary — it doesn’t roll or walk around — there is no need for protective cages to separate it from human co-workers.  For tasks that can be performed at a countertop or an assembly line, Baxter could be an ideal worker.

Rethink has said all along that Baxter will move on to other types of jobs, including, potentially, home healthcare. Last fall, Rethink CEO Rodney Brooks promised a Software Development Kit (SDK) that would enable Baxter to be refashioned for new jobs over time. “Our story is manufacturing, but there will be new software every two to three months with new capabilities,” Brooks, pictured above, told EMtech 2012 attendees in October. “Researchers will find places to use it that we wouldn’t have guessed.”

Here’s the scoop from Rethink’s web site:

“Baxter Research Robot is a $22,000 humanoid robot platform with two 7-axis arms, integrated cameras, sonar, torque sensors, and direct programming access via a standard ROS interface. It is entirely safe to operate around humans without safety cages, making it the perfect companion for late nights in the lab… with no extra pizza required.”

research robot

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