Baxter: The Evolutionary Robot That Learns From Humans



Rethink Robotics recently made a breakthrough in the machine industry with the evolutionary robot that learns from humans. According to its creators, Baxter is a unique machine that is redefining the manner in which robotics is used in manufacturing environments. It conducts a variety of repetitive production tasks while working safely alongside humans. The complex machine utilizes behavior-based common sense, capable of sensing and adapting to its environment and task.

User-friendly, Baxter requires no expensive integration or complex programming, and is surprisingly cheap ($25,000 excluding warranty). Baxter is a new alternative for manufacturing companies worldwide. The intelligent mechanical worker is three feet and one inch tall without the movable pedestal and between five feet and six feet with the pedestal. The robot’s arm length is 41 inches, and it weighs 306 pounds.

The robot can brew coffee, solve a Rubik’s Cube, pack a box, and fold a shirt. On average, it packs boxes twice as fast as humans. The breakthrough technology is being used by a range of manufacturers for a diverse set of tasks, including packing and unpacking boxes, putting parts into a machine, and assembling kits. A robot update was initialized recently, which improves the machine’s abilities. Rethink Robotics CEO, Scott Eckert, said that the latest update allows his company’s creation to move quicker, grab things that are on top of moving objects (conveyor belt, forklift), and it enables users to adjust its precision and speed settings. Eckert believes that now the average factory worker can train Baxter.

The evolutionary creation is not only learning from humans, but humans are learning from it. Eckert has allowed his technology to be studies and investigated. The recent update allows researchers to observe Baxter’s computer processing unit (“brain”) remotely. Eckert believes the update will benefit analysts in academic settings and corporate customers with development and research labs. Baxter research robots are currently used in over 100 universities.

The Rethink Robotics creative and business lead stated that he and his team are always developing updates and improvements for their creation. The company recently added two high-profile members to their team – Jim Lawton, former Senior Vice President at New Jersey-based commercial marketing firm Dun & Bradstreet, Lawton will serve as Rethink’s Chief Marketing Officer, and Milan Shah, former Senior Vice President of Engineering at the security Intelligence Agency, Core Security Technologies, will serve as the robotics company’s Vice President of Software Engineering.

Baxter can be purchased with various warranties to protect customers on their investment. The dual-armed evolutionary robot is learning from humans, and scaring a few of them. Baxter’s impressive capabilities are worrying factory workers who are concerned that the complex machine will cost them their job. Previous versions of workplace robots have not had the fluidity and adaptability of Baxter. The improvements in this, and other machines have economists and tech analysts agreeing that over half of the jobs that people currently hold will be passed onto robots in a “decade or two.” Nevertheless, Eckert firmly believes that robots and humans can work together side-by-side.

By Andres Loubriel

Rethink Robotics
The Atlantic


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