Rethink Robotics: Humans and Robots Working Together

We live in a world where robotics is becoming our present and future.   We’re sure humans are worried that one day they won’t be needed because a robot can do their job effectively and in the long run economically.  Rethink Robotics, Inc., a Boston based company has designed and created a new Robot Positioning System that will allow industrial robots to work alongside people.

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Manufacturing robots have always been bolted to the ground or caged, not only to protect the workers from harm, but to their own hardware and software.   Rethink Robotics’ new software update Intera 3.1 allows its manufacturing robot Baxter to become mobile and quickly move around to complete tasks efficiently.  The robot is also now able to identify objects even after they’ve been bumped or shifted.  Jim Lawton, chief marketing officer for Rethink Robotics describes Baxter’s Robot Positioning System, “It can detect when something has shifted, reorient itself, and continue to do its task, and all that can be done without anybody reprogramming it or tweaking any code.”  This technology has been in the works for many months now.  The system comes with a set of markers called “Landmarks”, which allow Baxter to use its vision system to figure out where it is.  Basically, the company says they have programmed the robots to think.  Rethink Robotics is making it easier for manufacturers to deploy Baxter across multiple applications and tasks.

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The Robot Positioning System enables Baxter to adapt quickly to workstation changes of up to +/- 50mm horizontally and within +/- 10 degrees of rotation, by marking the new Landmark locations.  One of the first customers to utilize the new technology, Praxis Packaging Solutions meets the diverse packaging demands of customers.  Chris Hager, Information Technology Manager at the Michigan-headquartered Praxis Packaging Solution says “no other robot built for manufacturers can come close to providing the flexibility and adaptability of Baxter.”

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The latest software release, Intera 3.1 gives Baxter many advantages, including smart software, multiple sensors and embedded vision.  Using Baxter’s learning ability, it can be taken from one job, moved to another station, and taught to carry out its new task.  The new manufacturing robot has been brought out of its cage by making it safe enough to work with people.  We might even see Baxter in our homes one day.

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