Software development kit enables customization of industrial robot

Baxter research robot

Last year, Rethink Robotics launched the Baxter Robot—a two-armed vision-enabled industrial robot that can be configured to assist in manufacturing or research environments. Unlike other industrial robots, Baxter’s design is more human-like and is optimized to work alongside people on the factory floor.

Earlier this year, Baxter received its first job: Packaging toys at K’Nex, a toy that involves building and constructing. With the initial Baxter model already on the factory floor, Rethink Robotics has launched the Research Robot, which gives researchers and developers the opportunity to develop custom applications with Baxter software.

The research model comes equipped with two 7-axis arms, integrated cameras that allow it to “see,” 360° sonar, torque sensors, and direct programming access via the robot operating system interface. The goal of the model is to offer a system for developers to perform a “myriad of tasks,” Mitch Rosenberg, Rethink’s vice president of marketing and product management told Design News. He also suggested that there are a number of aspects of the robot’s functionality that can be developed using the software development kit including object manipulation, collaborative robots, and human-robot interactions, the last of which was a topic of discussion in a recent white paper.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, suggested in its white paper that that robots could advance the manufacturing industry for small and medium-sized businesses in coming years. One of the scenarios outlined by CSIRO is the collaboration with and assisting of humans on manufacturing tasks, which would in turn increase productivity and promote safe, smart automation.

Workers at the automated K’Nex factory already call Baxter a colleague. But now with the Research Robot in the hands of some of the country’s top researchers—including MIT and Tufts, according to Design News—a lot more employees could eventually find themselves working alongside an industrial robot.

View more information on the Baxter Research Robot.

View more information on the initial Baxter Robot release.

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