In 2012, Rethink Robotics released Baxter, an industrial robot that could be trained by workers to perform different tasks. It seemed like this could be “the future of robotics,” but recently the company announced it is shutting down, according to New Atlas.
What set Rethink Robotics apart was their claim that instead of users writing complicated code, all users had to do was grab the robot’s arms and physically guide them through the required motions. According to the company, anyone could train the robot including factory workers with minimum training.
Baxter also used integrated sensors to understand its surroundings, and would slow down its actions when humans were within proximity. If the robot came in contact with a person, it would entirely stop moving. The price for Baxter was set at $22,000, which was less expensive than a typical industrial robot.
In 2016, Rethink Robotics announced its one-armed robot, Sawyer, who was more compact and agile than Baxter.
Overall, Baxter seemed quite popular in different applications, such as bagging groceries and filling the role of an Amazon warehouse picker.
Despite its popularity, it seemed that not enough companies were quite interested in Baxter. Effective October 3rd, Chief Operating Officer Jim Lawton provided the following statement:
We were early to market with a very innovative product that was ahead of its time, and unfortunately, we did not achieve the commercial success we had expected. A planned acquisition of the company fell through at the last moment. All of Rethink Robotics’ employees are being actively recruited for roles in other robotics firms.
Since its founding in 2008, Rethink Robotics was a pioneer in the industry and has been recognized for creating the entirely new category of collaborative robots. We changed the way the world thinks about automation by designing robots that can safely be used near people, can sense their surroundings, and are able to perform tasks for which traditional robots were never a good fit. We remain excited about the future of collaborative robots and are pleased to see other providers incorporating our ideas into their automation solutions.