Baxter has something that a lot of people don’t have. Something that can’t be taught. Something that is extremely important when it comes to working with people. Baxter has, “behavior-based ‘common sense,’ capable of sensing and adapting to its task and its environment.” The new robot named Baxter was designed by the Rodney Brooks, a founder of the company that makes the Roomba. But instead of cleaning floors, Baxter is designed to work in manufacturing environments alongside human people.
The robot is being marketed as a low-cost alternative to overseas production. Baxter isn’t meant to replace human workers or heavy machinery, but offer a complement to the two in order to increase efficiency and productivity. Essentially, Baxter bridges the gap between worker and machine.
Robots are already being used in manufacturing. Typically industrial robots are big and bulky, lightning fast, and potentially dangerous. They are meant to replace human workers, they can be tricky to program, and cost a pretty penny. Baxter is supposed to be the anti-bot. Baxter operates at a pace compatible with a human work rate, and is safe enough for workers to operate right next to it. The robot Baxter is supposed to be simple to use, cheap, and it’s supposed to facilitate human tasks rather than replace workers.
Although robots are capable of visual recognition, Baxter’s eyes don’t actually see. They are there to serve as a signal for Baxter’s next action.
The common sense capabilities mean that Baxter learns physical actions and tasks, rather than being programmed. This is why Baxter isn’t meant to replace big fast-paced industrial machinery. Rather than carrying out a single repetitive function, Baxter is capable of learning different functions in order to help alleviate the more tedious tasks that were previously performed by people.
Brooks’ goal with Baxter is to make robots accessible to all manufacturers. The hope is to bring the increased efficiency and productivity that automation provides to more people in different types of manufacturing. A robot capable of adapting to its setting and situation is a good start.