Most people are scared that we may soon have too many robots. “I’m scared we won’t have enough robots,” said Rethink Robotics founder Rodney Brooks during his TED talk on Tuesday.
The MIT professor’s vision for a future of what he calls the “society built on the shoulders of steel” got one step closer to reality earlier this month: Rethink’s $22,000 Baxter robot is now working at a plant outside Philadelphia helping to stack Super Mario toys and send them to China.
If you’re not familiar with Baxter, it’s a robot that’s been created specifically to work with humans rather than replace them. “Factory robots are dangerous to be around, and to program them you have to know a lot,” Brooks said in his talk. “Normal people can’t interact with them–they’ve displaced the worker from the technology.”
With flexible arms and a friendly face screen, Baxter not only looks kind, but it’s safe to work alongside as well: Its arms can sense when it runs into a person, lessening dangerous run-ins. To program the robot’s actions, a person physically takes Baxter through the motions that need to be done. Baxter then repeats the actions, but is smart enough to avoid knocking over its human counterparts.
And now, as Plastics News reported earlier this month, Baxter has gotten his first gig. K’Nex, the toy that focuses on building and constructing, will soon be packaged with the help of Baxter.
Later this year Baxter, in addition to helping out at Rodon, the sister company of K’Nex, will also find itself with two other plastics companies, Nypro and Vanguard Plastics Corporation.