Working Side by Side



When one thinks of the evolution of the distribution of robotic hardware it is easy to see how deployments in the military and medical theater are the forerunners for business and home use.  Rodney Brooks has been an innovator of home robotics since his days of founding iRobot, and now with Baxter he plans to revolutionize the work environment.

A recent WIRED Magazine video (above) shows how Tesla motors is taking collaborative robots to the next level with humans now working side-by-side with their industrial machine co-workers.  Now that makes sense for a massive car assembly line that costs 100s of millions of dollars, but how does that translate for smaller businesses?  At Gibson Engineering’s convention booth, Rethink Robotics’  Baxter robot was on display showing how it (or he) could lift circular plastic parts off a conveyor and place them in a box. What was intriguing was that programming was done by grabbing Baxter’s arm and showing “him” the task to be performed.

“Instead of programming it, you grab and teach it how,” said Robert MacDonald, director of sales and marketing for Gibson Engineering of Norwood, Mass., a Rethink distributor for New England, northern New Jersey and metro New York.  Baxter uses a camera to track a product on a conveyor, then picks it up and places it in a box. He said that it works with a piece that weighs 5 pounds or less and that it takes about a half hour for setup and instruction of its use. “A lot of times when we bring Baxter to a customer, it is not programming, but it is really teaching and we get the operators to do it,” said MacDonald. Harley Green, Gibson project specialist for Baxter, works each day with the robot, and notes that it is a continuing process. Each update allows it to do more. He said that Baxter draws interest in many different sectors ranging from manufacturing to handling money for investment companies and banks.

The interesting thing is the price of Baxter robot ($22,000) is the equivalent of hirer a low-skilled employee or the cost of buying a used Tesla car produced by 160 robots and 3,000 human beings.

Reprinted with Permission.

Image credit: CC by Tambako The Jaguar


About the author: Oliver Mitchell

Oliver Mitchell is the Founding Partner of Autonomy Ventures a New York based venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments in robotics, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence. He has spent the last twenty years building and selling ventures, including: Holmes Protection to ADT/Tyco, Americash to American Express, and launching RobotGalaxy, a national EdTech brand. Oliver has been investing in the robotic industry for close to 10 years, with four successful exits in his angel portfolio in the past two years (including 2 IPOs). He is also a member of New York Angels and co-chairs the Frontier Tech Committee.

As father of five, Oliver launched RobotGalaxy in 2006 to fill a personal need: he wanted a wholesome activity for his son. RobotGalaxy’s patented toys were a national phenomena available at Toys’R’Us, Nordstrom Department Stores, and online that connected to a virtual world and library of mobile apps.

Before RobotGalaxy, Oliver was involved in a number of successful technology ventures and real estate developments. Oliver was part of the executive team of Softcom/IVT, an interactive video startup backed by Allen & Co., Intel Capital (NASDAQ:INTC) and Sun Microsystems. At IVT, Oliver was instrumental in expanding the market for their products with such leading broadcasters as HBO, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network.

Prior to IVT, Oliver was a founding member of AmeriCash, Inc., a network of ATMs in high traffic retail locations. AmeriCash was acquired by American Express (NYSE:AXP) within 32 months of operations. Oliver was also instrumental in the development of Holmes Protection and its sale to ADT/Tyco International (NYSE:TYC). Oliver has extensive background in merchant banking and advertising. He started his career at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners.

Oliver holds 14 patents and has appeared on numerous television shows, including: The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, The Today Show, and Rachel Ray. He also serves as a mentor on the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator Fund, and advises many technology companies on their growth strategies including Greensight Agronomics and Que Innovations.

Oliver is also the publisher of the well-known robotics blog Robot Rabbi and is in the midst of writing a book entitled, “An Innovator’s Field Guide: Taking Ideas From Zero to Hero.”

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