Let’s first finish up the formal introductions. I am Baxter the robot, and I was created by the company ‘Rethink Robotics’, founded by the Australian roboticist Rodney Allen Brooks, and was introduced in the year 2012.
Baxter with Rodney Brooks
I have two arms, with the help of which I go about performing my duties while sitting on a pedestal. I also have an animated screen as my face, through which I express myself just as a human being does.Well, you must be wondering what the purpose must’ve been behind my creation. The answer is automation. Automation is a technology in which a task is performed automatically, i.e., without human intervention. In this age of automation, the major focus of development is undoubtedly on industrial automation, as an industry is a place where a lot of physical labor is involved.One of my very distinct features is that I’m not like any other traditional industrial robot. For example, I have quite a lot of sensors surrounding my head and hands that help me adapt to my surroundings easily. This particularly sets me apart from other robots, as I have the intelligence to stop working if my tools fall down, which the traditional ones clearly lack, which means I am not entirely mechanical. Also, when you try to lift my hand holding the cuffs, I go into gravity-compensation, zero-force mode, which makes it almost weightless.
I was essentially designed to take over from human beings those dull, monotonous, repetitive and mindless tasks that are simple, and I do them with a moderate speed. This makes me less dangerous compared to the rest and what’s more, humans can work right beside me without any fear of getting hurt. Some of my functions include kitting, packaging, loading & unloading, machine tending, and material handling. Take a look at how I work:
Another remarkable thing about me is my ability to get programmed. You move my hand to perform a task, and I will memorize it. A person without any robotic knowledge can also teach me to do a work, thanks to my user-friendly interface. All this at a relatively low price of $22,000.
In 2015, I was succeeded by Sawyer, another creation with a smaller footprint and longer reach than me that can reach out to tighter spaces and whose application list has been upgraded.
Many people have opined that the introduction of industrial robots may lead to the decline in the number of jobs being created, as machines would take over humans and it would lead to unemployment. This kind of outcry has been common before the introduction of many path-breaking innovations like the computer. And just like computers, development in industrial automation creates more jobs than it consumes. A more skilled population will be required to maintain and operate the new machinery. Also, trainers will be needed to educate people in this field. All in all, I am here to help you humans, and I absolutely love doing what I do.
Image sources: Rethink Robotics, CNBC, Robohub, The Epoch Times, Machido, IEEE.