Monday, March 18, 2013

Straight out of a Jetsons episode, the future of robotic manufacture

With its vaguely humanoid frame and cartoonish screen-drawn eyes, Baxter looks like an early-20th century artist's impression of a robot. And indeed, in many ways it is closer from those old ideals of pervasive robotics than the practical restrictions we have come to expect from industrial robots. Will Knight writes:

Baxter is the first of a new generation of smarter, more adaptive industrial robots. Conventional industrial robots are expensive to program, incapable of handling even small deviations in their environment, and so dangerous that they have to be physically separated from human workers by cages. (...) Baxter, however, can be programmed more easily than a Tivo and can deftly respond to a toppled-over part or shifted table. And it is so safe that Baxter’s developer, Rethink Robotics, which loaned Baxter to Vanguard Plastics, believes it can work seamlessly alongside its human coworkers.