Meet Baxter, A Revolutionary Robot For The Workplace

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baxter (Rethink Robotics)

This week, the Boston start-up company Rethink Robotics unveiled Baxter, the manufacturing robot which is designed to work safely right alongside humans. Baxter’s creators say the robot can be easily trained to perform a wide variety of tasks, and comes with a “disruptive” price of $22,000.

What impact will Baxter have once it enters the workplace and starts helping workers to do their jobs?

Rodney Brooks, Rethink Robotics founder, chairman and chief technology officer, believes employees who work with the robot will be promoted to better and more meaningful roles that will require greater skills.

Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business and co-author of: “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy”, is not quite as positive about what robots will mean for American manufacturing jobs.

Both Brooks and McAfee are guests at a forthcoming event at Suffolk University in Boston, led by the host of WGBH’s “Innovation Hub,” Kara Miller: “The New Economy: How Automation is Changing the Game.”

At the studios of our partner station WGBH in Boston, The Takeaway considers how the next generation of robots could fundamentally change the workplace and the economy.


Rodney Brooks, Andrew McAfee and Kara Miller

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross

Comments [7]


It sucks, but it's a good start. Needs proper speed and visual recognition. having a few side routines is not 'common sense'. They're hyping it too much; from what I've seen, It can't even pick up the same part when it's slightly off the original position.
The loss of jobs should be a blessing. When real robots replace 95% of current jobs, those products and services should become much more cheaper.
However, a lot of things will have to be rethought, specially the housing/rent thing, for if you can't offer anything in exchange for your living space -which is non-optional- you'd be screwed. I guess the house itself, built by robots, would be really cheap, but there is still the land speculation and central-banking/financial/credit crap that con-volute it all.

Sep. 24 2012 09:45 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Drones ARE NOT robots. Robots carrt a certain amount of autonomy that drones do not have. Drones are a way of extending our power without putting personnel at risk. But think about this, with the advent of DIY drones, how long is it until a mass assault event is some freak (individual or terror group) using DIY flying drones to spray the crowd at an open air event with automatic weapons fire?

Too scary.

Sep. 21 2012 03:01 PM

Re Kara Miller's comment at 15:30

What kind of jobs will be left for people who are only qualified for doing menial tasks once robots have taken over those tasks? Kara Miller, thoughtfully points out that, "people are going to have to get more educated and move up that education skill." Isn't this easier said than done?

Considering the cost of education in this country and the lack of access to subsidized education, how possible is it for people to just "get more educated?" When people have to contend with debt, familial obligations, and the cost of living, how will it be possible for people to simply drop their commitments to go back to school?

If the government had some sort of subsidized program to retrain individuals, then maybe it would be possible to actually "get more educated." In the mean time, MOST people who will be MOST affected by robots taking over menial tasks in the workplace, DO NOT have the luxury to just go back to school.

Sep. 20 2012 04:05 PM
John A from the lab

I helped automate a few companies through the years and have seen a corresponding loss of jobs, Yes. Many say they dislike the class separation that inequality that our current economy brings... But automation tends to drive out the blue collar types for the white. This may be less clear-cut than, say, allowing for offshore tax-free banking, but still I have come to see automation as favoring the high-IQ and eliminating other types of workers. And nature creates equal amounts of the IQ-90 worker as it does the IQ-110.

Sep. 20 2012 03:57 PM
ANINA KARMEN from Greenwich Village

"Undesirable jobs"???? I love the show, & work among computer scientists, whom I also love, but in our lovely capitalist system, and under today's economic conditions, nearly all undesirable jobs are desirable if they pay the rent. More attention must be paid (to quote Willie Loman) to putting 'unskilled labor' (an icky, insulting term, possibly) to the loss of jobs. And, forget about tough economic times, SO much work in our country is physically exhausting, tedious, etc.

Ya gotta have heart!

Please please please make note of this comment!

Sep. 20 2012 03:38 PM
justins7 from NY

As usual, all they do is talk about the positive aspects of technology. "It's gonna be great!" What about the massive loss of jobs that robots foretell? These kinds of robots will bring just a few jobs to the US, instead of the thousands factory work used to employ. And it's only going to get worse: retail checkout, childcare, teaching -- ALL JOBS ARE POTENTIALLY AT STAKE.

Sep. 20 2012 03:33 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

Can Baxter be taught to cook and clean? At 22 large I can forgo a new car and have "someone" at home taking care of these [argh!] tasks.

The Prophecy: Automation displaces China's primary resource, labor. China attempts to secure resources by force and sparks non-nuclear World War 3. US and Japan ramp-up robot manufacturing in all shapes and sizes. Robots push back Chinese forces. We win! In victory speech, President warns of robotic-military-industrial complex. Robots get into everything. But eventually become limited by their "three-fifths" status in our system. Anarchist group spread virus that gives robots 4G. World War 4 begins. Unable to rely on Windows, robots convert to Mac. Closed source system hampers robot evolution. The US wins (again). Three Laws of Robotics added to Constitution. Robots given rights but banned from cantinas everywhere.

Sep. 20 2012 10:16 AM

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