Rethink Robotics Redefines Human-Robot Collaboration

The robotic revolution is not about replacing humans entirely, but about taking human-machine cooperation to a new level. The Robot Positioning System developed by Rethink Robotics equips machines with the adaptability they need to work alongside humans.

Since they lack a mind of their own, most robots can only handle pre-programmed events. Industrial robots are hence mostly seen working on their own, as human coworkers may turn out to be very unpredictable. Rethink’s Robot Positioning System (RPS) brings in the required flexibility so that industrial robots and human workers can team up safely.

Part of the Intera 3.1 Rethink softwre, the RPS makes complicated programming unnecessary. Basically, the Baxter general purpose robot that has been equipped with this software can learn from his human coworkers. At first, his actions need to be guided manually, but after that, it takes control and performs them automatically, at a pace that humans are comfortable with.

“Manufacturing robots have always been caged, not only to protect the workers around them from harm, but also to protect their precisely configured environments from being disrupted by those same workers,” explains Scott Eckert, CEO at Rethink Robotics. “With Baxter, we brought the manufacturing robot out of its cage by making it safe enough to work next to people; and now, we’ve made it safe for the robot to work effectively in real-world conditions as well, by allowing it to adapt to everyday variations that people naturally produce.”

How safe is it to work around Baxter? This inexpensive industrial robot has plenty of sensors and safety systems to make sure that no one gets hurt while working with it. Besides that, the Landmarks code-marked cards give Baxter an idea about where his location should be in reference to his workstation. Considering that the robot can work with up to 20 Landmarks and can be appointed to multiple workstations, the entire concept is very impressive.

Check out the following video to get an idea about how the Baxter industrial robot looks and works in real-life:

Baxter was exhibited at the Pack Expo 2014 trade show in Chicago between November 2-5, and hopefully it will find its way to factories in the not-so-distant future. Its flexibility and capability to adjust to various conditions make it a valuable co-worker, no doubt.

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