Rethink Robotics’ Baxter In Demand
Many industries interested as a research version of the robot heads to Europe.
By Kyle Alspach, Boston Business Journal - Filed Sep 18, 2013

Boston-based Rethink Robotics said Monday that a research version of its humanoid robot Baxter is now available in the European Union, following adoption by a number of top engineering schools in the U.S.

Universities using the Baxter Research Robot so far include MIT, Tufts University,Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell.

Researchers at the universities are using the robot to create a wide array of custom applications using Rethink's software development kit, the company said. Baxter has two arms and grippers on each arm, and can easily be programmed to do a variety of repetitive tasks.

MIT, for instance, "is using one of their Baxter Research Robots to assist with navigation and mapping research."

"Baxter is used to scan objects in the environment in a consistent and reproducible way, leading to the development of 3D models for items the robot can then interact with," Rethink said in a news release.

From the release:

At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Baxter Research Robot is being used for research on understanding novel grippers, studying human-robot interaction and incorporating touch sensing. Cornell is working to give Baxter the ability to grasp novel objects, specifically objects that are viewed for the first time through the robot's camera. Using deep learning algorithms, the Baxter Research Robot is now able to predict the gripper configuration for grasping based on the raw image data for an object.

Rethink Robotics said the research version of Baxter will be available to academic and corporate researchers in the European Union through two distribution partners — Active Robots (for the United Kingdom and Ireland) and Generation Robots (the distributor for France). Both distributors will cover additional parts of continental Europe as well, Rethink said.

Rethink released the Baxter Research Robot to U.S. researchers in April, after starting 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.

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.

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