Baxter, Rethink Robotics Inc.’s most recent invention, is a small, two armed robot built to lift and sort objects between 5 and 10 pounds. This robot is less expensive than most robots because it was created for small to medium sized manufacturers, where it can work alongside the conveyer belt with humans without conflicting with them. Baxter eliminates the need for technicians because most workers can learn how to operate this robot within a half hour. (Hagerty) Its basic functions are preprogrammed, however workers can also teach Baxter how to perform new tasks and receive feedback on whether or not it comprehends from the robot itself.
I believe that Baxter would be a wise investment for smaller businesses which can’t afford the bigger, more efficient robots that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Baxter is priced around $22,000, which allows smaller manufacturers to experience some of the benefits of a robot without the high cost like before. (Hagerty) However, I do not believe that medium to large sized manufacturers should waste their time or money on this robot. The goal of every business is to continue to grow and become more prosperous. Larger companies would need many of these robots to complete their sized jobs. For every small Baxter robot these companies buy, they could have pooled their money together and invested in one of the bigger and more expensive robots. Although Baxter can be taught new tasks, it is mainly geared towards lifting, loading and sorting.
The bigger robots give businesses more for their money by being able to perform a variety of tasks. An example of this can be seen in Yaskawa’s Motoman robot, Baxter’s competitor, that can lift heavier objects and weld, assemble, coat, dispense, cut, package, polish, and sand all different types of material. (“Yaskawa Motoman Robotics”) Motoman also has two arms and is designed for multiple jobs. For instance, one Motoman was designed to be a smaller model, like Baxter, and was used to deal a game of Blackjack. (Hagerty) Motoman, like many other expensive robots, is worth investing in more than Baxter if the business has the funds because Yaskawa has more models and options to be used in many different parts of manufacturing instead of Baxter’s few specialized tasks.
When focusing on small businesses, I believe that Baxter could be a successful innovation to increase productivity along the assembly line. However, when looking at manufacturing as a whole, I think Baxter requires more development to compete with the more advanced robots that are already on the market. “David Bourne, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh described it as a ‘work in progress’ and said most manufacturers would want faster and stronger robots.” (Hagerty) I agree with this statement because companies are always looking for the next best thing, from which they can get the most out of, to improve their company.