'Baxter' The Humanoid Robot Could Be Your Future Co-Worker

humanoid robots as co-workers Rethink Robotics
American workers already know that they face tough competition for job openings. With a global economy, more jobs are outsourced to cheaper labor overseas. But the competition could get even stiffer.

Meet "Baxter."

On Tuesday, Boston, Mass.-based Rethink Robotics unveiled a humanoid robot "Baxter" that will go on sale in October, according to the BBC. Although the company says that the robots are not intended to replace human workers, "Baxter" can be trained to directly handle manual assignments and carry out simple on-screen computer tasks. As a result, Baxter can execute a range of duties such as loading, machine operation, light assembly, sorting and inspecting, and packing and unpacking.

Priced at $22,000, the robots will cost a few thousand more than the annual salary of a minimum wage worker (about $15,000 based on a 40-hour workweek). But the pricetag for a Baxter is far less than for other robots on the market, the cost of which is usually in the range of $40,000, according to RobotWorx, an industrial automation vendor.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour

Currently there are 1.1 million working robots in the world, according to International Federation of Robotics. But what makes Baxter different -- and potentially threatening to human workers -- is that it is equipped to work alongside humans, and interact with us. Baxter will be able to communicate and follow commands.

Indeed, while roboticists have been able to create robots in the past, the founder of Rethink Robotics, Rodney Brooks, told the BBC that "what's proven more difficult is inventing robots that ... are able to inherently understand and adapt to their environment."

In addition to these new abilities, the "Baxter" robots will need just 30 minutes of training to understand a new task. Yet it won't forget what it's learned and "can be moved to different and varying tasks over the course of a day, week and month," its manufacturer says.

"Baxter" will be encased in plastic, will offer a 9-foot "wingspan" and an array of safety mechanisms, according to The New York Times. One of which, called the "e-stop," will automatically shut down the machine.

Will Baxter take jobs from America's workers?

So far, the robots are being promoted more as a supporting actors, one whose present existence without the lead actors -- aka humans -- is unthinkable.

One workplace, Vanguard Plastics, already has introduced a prototype into its workplace. In an interview with the Times, Vanguard President Chris Budnick said that Baxter only made the workplace efficient thanks to its cooperation with the current staff. The Southington, Conn.-based company assigned the Baxters mainly to menial production-line jobs, which enabled the company to amp up its higher-level work.

Budnick dismissed the notion that Baxter posed any threat to his workers.

"Our folks loved it and they felt very comfortable with it," he said. "Even the older folks didn't perceive it as a threat."

Maybe so. But the automobile industry has long employed robots and now has 80 percent of its work done by non-human machines, according to the BBC.

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The World has become cold enough we don't need Robots. We need Humans with feelings not a Robot.

September 28 2013 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes but will it vote democrat and rob rape and murder white people.

September 24 2012 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

oops forgot spell check, should be "down" and "diving" not "dining".

September 20 2012 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Putting the cart before the horse. One geek gets a job in robotics and puts countless people out of work. What is needed is to get new jobs for people first before you replace them with robots. It would be one thing to have this guy go to Mars on a probe ahead of humanity or send him dwon for deep sea dining but to replace more people leaving them unemployed would hurt the economy in the long run as robots don't pay taxes and those who lose the jobs would then need unemployment, food assistance welfare etc.. The article says that he would cost about 22k vs a minimum wage worker getting 40 hrs a week which most people in those jobs don't get because then the company has to start paying benefits etc.

September 20 2012 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When will this become clear to some people. American business ISN'T concerned with creating jobs. Their only concern is cutting cost, to maximize the bottom line. This is the buisnessman's ideology. And some people want to put a buisnessman in the Oval Office?

September 20 2012 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

THAT IS SO STUPID! Why are't people making jobs for PEOPLE -- not robots? Robots can't run the country. They can't have families. They can't run a household. They don't have "friends". They are MACHINES, for Pete's sake. Somebody must have too much time on his hands to sit around and think up stupid things like that when there are REAL people in this country who are suffering because THEY have no jobs. God gave us brains. Some people must not know how to use theirs! GET A LIFE and help somebody else.

September 20 2012 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alberto Garcia

Yeah we need that... NOT

September 20 2012 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok, the same way ATM's took away so many jobs and never created any just the way our Pal Barack said?

September 20 2012 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So do we blame Obama for the jobs lost to this?

September 20 2012 at 10:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

let me see if I have this right. We dont have any jobs. We are complaining about manufactering being sent off shore. And now we are going to produce robots to replace the few jobs that we have left. Before you say it, its got to be Bush's fault.

September 20 2012 at 1:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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