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Rethink Robotics' human-friendly Baxter (pictures)

Baxter is a two-armed assembly droid designed to work for small and midsize businesses. Unlike most industrial robots it doesn't require a safety zone, so people can work alongside it.

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Tim Hornyak

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People power

Rethink Robotics' Baxter is a low-cost industrial robot designed to help U.S. companies compete with cheap foreign manufacturing. The Boston-based startup is selling its people-friendly droid for $22,000, much less than the price of a traditional industrial robot.
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A watchful eye

Baxter can perform tasks such as light assembly, packing and unpacking, and material handling. It automatically senses a person's approach and can slow down for safety.
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Light touch

Baxter's manipulators can handle different objects moving along an assembly line. It will start shipping in October with a suction-type gripper and a two-fingered gripper.
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Easy setup

Baxter requires minimal programming to get rolling and needs only an electrical outlet, according to Rethink. It can be taught what to do with a graphical user interface, or by directly manipulating its arms, and will be able to use applications in the ROS family of robot tools.
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Reaching out

Working without a safety cage, Baxter can be freely moved around the assembly line. It's covered with soft materials in case it comes into contact with people. If it does meet a stray person, it will stop its motion to make sure no one gets hurt.

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