Smarter Robots, With No Wage Demands

Rethink Robotics’ Baxter can learn any menial assembly-line task
Photographs by Joe Leavenworth for Bloomberg Businessweek

Measured against the hopes and horrors of science fiction, Baxter, a new manufacturing robot from Rethink Robotics, is a huge disappointment. Although it has two Olympic swimmer-length arms and a set of expressive digitally rendered eyes and eyebrows, Baxter is legless and speechless. It can’t hold a conversation, pass for a human, or rise up against its masters in apocalyptic rebellion. But Baxter’s creators are out to spark a different kind of revolution. They hope the robot, adept at the mindless repetitive tasks common on most assembly lines, can increase the productivity of U.S. manufacturers and help them retain business that would otherwise migrate overseas.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.