Baxter's open-source software program enables broad development
Developers at Rethink Robotics in Boston have the newest version of the company’s flagship product, the Baxter Research Robot. The humanoid robot was developed for use in colleges and universities, and is designed to work alongside technicians and researchers.
Baxter has two seven-axis arms, a 360-degree sonar and a front camera for sensing applications, sensors and direct programming access.
Baxter exhibits behavior-based common sense, meaning it is capable of sensing and adapting to its task and surroundings, requiring no complex programming. The research robot can be programmed from scratch based on ROS, the global Robot Operating System standard, according to a spokesperson for Rethink.
The new Baxter was designed with a software development kit (SDK). The design allows researchers to focus on object manipulation, human-robot interactions, robot adaptation to changes in its environment and arm trajectory planning.
The robot, which doesn't need to be in a safety cage, retails for $22,000.
Founder and CTO Rodney Brooks, who co-founded iRobot Corp., said that the price is affordable for universities and research labs. Brooks says that Baxter is already coming in handy in select universities.
“Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute have already begun working with the Baxter Research Robot and it is exciting to see the kinds of applications they will develop,” Brooks said in a statement.
WPI grad students are also using the open-sourced nature of Baxter to make changes and explore other uses for the robot. A WPI-based research team there is exploring different ways to use the robot’s sensors.
The director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Robotics Engineering program, Michael Gennert, lauds the WPI's acquisition of Baxter as a major event that continues WPI's “leading-edge position in the ever-growing field of robotics. The open-source nature of Baxter’s software platform allows our research team to make changes and explore further uses for the robot.”
Baxter could play a role in a groundbreaking development – that robot application development has the potential to go viral the same way software did for computers and apps did for smartphones – which the president and CEO of Rethink, Scott Eckert, believes is possible.