It's assumed that one day factory line robots will eventually take over all aspects of manufacturing, freeing humans from the monotony of repetitive tasks. But integrating a robot into an assembly line is incredibly expensive and complicated—and Rethink Robotics hopes to eliminate those roadblocks with Baxter.
At $22,000 Baxter is still priced like a small car, but when you consider that your typical factory line automaton can run well north of $100,000, it means that many small businesses now have the opportunity to automate part of their process. And let's not forget that Baxter actually comes with two usable arms—not just one—that are both articulated with compliant joints so it's safe for use alongside humans.
But price and safety aren't the most revolutionary aspects of Baxter. In a typical factory environment programming a robot arm to perform a specific task requires a team of software developers and engineers, which adds considerably to its bottom line. But Baxter can be trained to perform a task by simply manually moving its arms through the required motions. As a result it might not be precise enough for extremely accurate tasks like soldering circuit boards, but at the same time it means that literally anyone can teach the robot to perform a specific task.
That feature alone has the potential to revolutionize what a small business could be capable of. And while Baxter has only just been revealed, it will actually start shipping in just a few weeks. So it's not just some pie-in-the-sky concept that may never see the light of day.