Boston-based Rethink Robotics
on Monday announced a new version of software for its humanoid robot Baxter, which aims to make Baxter "an even more effective productivity tool for American manufacturers."
The announcement follows Rethink's disclosure a week ago that a research version of Baxter is now available in the European Union, following adoption by a number of top engineering schools in the U.S.
Rethink started shipments of Baxter to U.S. manufacturers in January. Manufacturers are using the robot to automate a variety of manual labor tasks alongside workers in factories.
From the news release about the Baxter 2.0 software:
• Baxter is now able to pick and place parts at any axis. That will allow the robot to perform a broad array of new tasks, such as picking objects off a shelf, or loading machines in a horizontal motion
• The software allows the customer to define waypoints with increased accuracy. Users will be able to define the exact trajectory that they want Baxter's arms to follow simply by moving them. For example, the robot can be taught where to move its arms in and out of a machine. In addition, the 2.0 software enables customers to train Baxter to hold its arms in space for a predetermined amount of time, or until a signal indicates they can begin moving again. This makes Baxter useful for holding parts in front of scanners, inspection cameras or painting stations, and for working more interactively with other machines (i.e., moving its hand out of a machine while it cycles).
• Overall performance improvements. Baxter can now operate at a significantly faster pace, pick and place objects with increased consistency and move more fluidly between points.
• Improvements to its integrated vision. Baxter now has the ability to detect and distinguish between a broader range of part geometries, further broadening its capacity for variably shaped objects.
Rethink CEO Scott Eckert said in August that Baxter has been in demand so far from the plastics and packaging industries. The company has also found a "surprising amount of interest from the automotive industry," Eckert said.
Customers which have purchased Baxter so far include Rodon Group, a Pennsylvania plastic injection molder, the company said. Rethink isn't disclosing how many robots it has shipped to manufacturers so far.
Rethink employs 85, most of them in Boston, and was founded in 2008 by iRobot co-founder Rodney Brooks, who is the company's CTO.
The firm has raised $62 million in venture capital from backers including Sigma Partners, Charles River Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.