Sunday, October 6, 2013

A robot that works with humans on the assembly line

In an article called "Could this robot save your job?" a collaborative manufacturing robot named Baxter is described. This robot was developed by Rodney Brooks, who also invented Roomba (the robotic vacuum cleaner). Baxter is intended for factory work, but working with humans on the assembly line - not replacing them.

Instead of being programmed, this robot learns by watching humans and by being guided by them. Mr. Brooks gives an example of the older factory worker who can do more challenging mental tasks while Baxter does the repetitive physical tasks.

In addition to the short news item, there is a video (time 2:33) describing the robot and showing it at work. The video claims that Baxter is so easy to use, that non-technical factory workers will be able to train and use "him." Although the background music might make it a bit more difficult for students to hear the narrator, he speaks clearly and slowly.

Students can focus not only on aspects of technical description (how the robot was built) and process description (how it "learns" and works), but also discuss implications of the robot's use in manufacturing.

The article includes links to further articles about Baxter, as well as a link to a description of the inventor, Rodney Brooks.

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