Unique conference at BRL launches Baxter Robot in UK

Issue date: 25 March 2014

Baxter, a red and black robot, stands over a box of apples

26 March 2014, Bristol Robotics Laboratory

Active Robots has chosen Bristol Robotics Laboratory to host a unique conference to introduce the revolutionaryBaxter Robot to the research and academic community in the UK.

Baxter is an entirely new type of robot that is redefining the way robots can be used in manufacturing and research environments. In manufacturing plants, it performs a variety of repetitive production tasks – all while safely and intelligently working next to people. And in academic and corporate labs, it provides research teams with a cutting edge platform on which to develop their own applications.

Rethink Robotics, creators of Baxter, and Active Robots the UK distributors, chose BRL for the launch of Baxter in the UK because it is the leading and largest academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

BRL is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) and the University of Bristol, and home to a vibrant community of over 100 academics and industry practitioners, which lead current thinking in service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering.

The key speaker at the conference will be Dr Rodney Brooks, Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics. Dr Brooks, the Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus) at MIT, is a robotics entrepreneur and founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Rethink Robotics (formerly Heartland Robotics). He is also a founder, former board member and former chief technology officer of iRobot Corp, which has sold more than 10 million home robots across the globe. Dr Brooks was director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

At the conference Dr Brooks will speak on 'Collaborative Robots for Factories and Beyond'.

Rodney says, “We are really excited to be bringing Baxter to the UK. We believe that Baxter has a significant contribution to make improving the efficiency of manufacturing through flexible automation. In the US we have seen that Baxter has improved productivity, allowing manufacturers to maintain operations in the country, instead of moving overseas, which can negatively impact the economy. We are delighted to be holding this event at BRL, as it has the research capability, excellent connections and multi-disciplinary staff that will provide a great platform for the launch of Baxter.”

Prof. Chris Melhuish, Director of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said, “As the largest and leading centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK, we are very pleased to welcome Baxter and his creators to BRL for this launch. Our work is at the cutting edge of robotics research, and we are keen to collaborate closely with companies such as Rethink Robotics and Active Robots who are bringing the latest robotic technology into the marketplace. We have a Baxter robot based in BRL, and will be using it to demonstrate its potential at the launch event.”

During the event Baxter will be sorting apples and preparing them for packing as part of a demonstration. Jonathan Butt, who takes care of BRL's own Baxter robot, says, “Baxter has a vision system consisting of cameras on each 'wrist' that are able to detect the location and position of the apples. Vacuum suckers then grip each apple and place it ready for packaging. It is safe for someone to work alongside Baxter, and Baxter can work at this task all day long without tiring. Baxter can also interface with other elements of a production line - it doesn't need cages and doesn't need a programmer. It is very flexible so that one day it could be sorting apples, and the next day sorting bananas.”

During the conference, the BRL based RIF (Robotics Innovation Facility), which is funded under the EU Echord ++ scheme, will host a series of workshops for participants. RIF is tasked with making the capabilities of robotics more accessible and feasible for use in SMEs, larger companies and other enterprises.

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