I enjoy Halloween. I particularly enjoy passing out candy and treats to the children and being amused by their costumes. Some are very creative, and cute. A young girl no older than 3 years was dressed as a duck and instead of saying, “Trick or Treat” she just quacked. It was Hilarious!! So what does my Halloween experience this year have to do with manufacturing. Well, a young man came to my home dressed in a very elaborate and cleverly designed C-3PO costume. You know the clever robot in the Star Wars series that translated for R2D2.
I began to think about how robots in manufacturing are evolving and becoming more intuitive and cerebral, but an interesting phenomenon is also starting to evolve in the world of robotics. They’re becoming more emotional.
Say Hello to Mr. Baxter. Rethink Robotics has designed a friendly and compassionate robot with ‘common sense’. Baxter is a worker robot with a touchscreen face that’s as much about communicating its intent as giving humans something more to experience. It’s safe to work around, courteous and follows instructions very well. The ideal teenage son. Baxter also cost about $22,000. Less than a 1/3 of some college tuitions.
Can you envision yourself treating your fellow robot much like you treat your trusted Golden Retriever, Fido? Do you remember Rosie from the Jetsons and B9, the robot from the late 1960’s sitcom, Lost In Space (Boy am I dating myself)? These robots expressed emotions like love and fear, were treated like family and were trusted to help make critical decisions that effected the safety and well being of their owners.
Baxter is being touted as the catalyst to help restore US and European manufacturing prowess. Do you think Baxter robots will achieve this objective? I’m not sure, but I would like to know how President Obama and Mr. Romney plan to tax Mr. Baxter. I would hate for Baxter to become emotionally upset and stage a strike.