WorldWide Tech & Science. Francisco De Jesùs.
Meet Baxter: A Robot with common sense.
The target segment for Baxter are small-scale manufacturers, of which there are 300,000 in the U.S., Brooks said.
“We are trying to put robots into places that would normally have robots, so we’re aiming after small customers,” he said. “But it turns out large companies are coming to us — they’ve heard rumors and shown up.”
The introduction of the new robot comes as labor costs in China continue to rise, which has served as an encouragement to U.S. manufacturers to keep — or return — production operations to the states.
Brooks said he hasn’t viewed China as a stable place to do manufacturing over the long term. “I realized the labor costs were going to go up in China … that was part of the pitch to the VCs when I started the company and first raised money,” he said.
“The $22,000 robot that Rethink will begin selling in October, reports Markoff, “is the clearest evidence yet that robotics is more than a laboratory curiosity or a tool only for large companies with vast amounts of capital.
“The company is betting it can broaden the market for robots by selling an inexpensive machine that can collaborate with human workers, the way the computer industry took off in the 1980s when the prices of PCs fell sharply and people without programming experience could start using them right out of the box.
“‘It feels like a true Macintosh moment for the robot world,’ said Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who oversaw the development of the iPod and the iPhone.
Baxter will come equipped with a library of simple tasks, or behaviors — for example, a “common sense” capability to recognize it must have an object in its hand before it can move and release it.”
Brooks said the robot will only be certified for sale in the U.S. and Canada at first, and that the market is “so big that we can have explosive growth for years before we have to go elsewhere.”
The hope, he noted, is that Baxter will lead to a net increase in American jobs by allowing operations to stay in or return to the U.S. “The robot doesn’t do the whole task — it does the dull repetitive ones, and lets the person do the higher-value stuff,” Brooks said.
One analogy, he said, is around the PC and its impact on the job of the office worker. “The PC didn’t replace the office worker. The PC was used by office workers but changed the tasks they did and moved them up the value chain,” he said.