Can Robots and Humans Really Work Together? This Company Thinks YES!
Hollywood wants us to believe that there’s an inevitable clash between humans and robots.
Creator vs. created. Man vs. machine.
But one Boston-based company isn’t buying the rivalry.
Founded in 2008 by former iRobot CEO, Rodney Brooks, Rethink Robotics is a leading innovator in the development and distribution of “cobots,” collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans to support industrial automation.
The company has grown incredibly fast in recent years and continues to distribute automated robotic technology all over the world.
Take that Hollywood.
Cobotics: Changing Manufacturing Forever
Through a fully integrated suite of hardware and software robotic technology, Rethink Robotics helps manufacturers mitigate labor issues, increase productivity, and improve the operational quality of their processes.
The company’s suite includes three components: the cobots themselves, the Intera platform, and the ClickSmart toolkit.
Rethink Robotics first launched the Baxter cobot in 2012 as a cost-effective solution for manufacturers that needed fixed automation support. Baxter cobots come with a force-sensing capability that enables them to adjust grip tightness and has seven degrees of movement freedom which significantly reduces work-cell reconfiguration.
The successful distribution and warm reception of the Baxter model set the stage for the company’s follow-up cobot, the Sawyer. Launched in 2015, Sawyer cobots are smaller and more precise in their movements, allowing them to support high-performance automation without taking up much physical space. These cobots come with an embedded vision system that enables them to observe and respond to changes in their surroundings.
Both the Baxter and Sawyer cobots are powered by the Intera software platform which includes two different interfaces, Intera Studio, and Intera Insights, neither of which require prior experience with coding languages.
With Intera Studio, human users can train-by-demonstration and fine-tune the actions of their cobots. Intera Insights collects real-time production data and identifies anomalies that need to be corrected before bigger issues arise.
Introduced in 2017, ClickSmart is Rethink Robotics’ end-of-arm tooling solution that enables manufacturers to quickly swap out different grip types without having to use any tools. The Sawyer cobot has sensors that identify which gripper is attached on the end of its arm and can adjust behavior accordingly.
Together, these components make it possible for Rethink Robotics to quickly enhance existing manufacturing processes across a number of different industries including the auto, electronics, plastics, and packaging spaces.
For Brooks, The Roomba Was Only The Beginning
Rethink Robotics was born in 2008 after iRobot founder and Roomba creator, Rodney Brooks, saw what he believed to be the beginning of the end of human-executed manufacturing processes. With technological advancements, it became more apparent to Brooks that robots should be doing the highly repetitive and monotonous work that humans are doing today.
“With changing demographics, it becomes harder and harder to get labor to do the service things…it’s going to be robotic elements that enable that service economy to continue to grow,” predicted Brooks.
“A shortage of manufacturing labor around the world, coupled with manufacturers’ need to respond rapidly to market and product changes, is creating the need for a new kind of robot,” adds current CEO and President Scott Eckert, former CEO of Motion Computing.
Investors and customers are incredibly excited about Rethink Robotics. The company raised $18M in a Series E funding round in December 2016, the latest of nine rounds which brings the total capital raised to $150M. The rich investor base includes several big names such as Bezos Expeditions, GE Ventures, and Goldman Sachs.
Capital funding has helped Rethink Robotics grow its distribution network and invest in new cobots and supporting software. In July, the company added 10 new distribution deals spanning North America, Europe, and Asia, further deepening Rethink Robotics’ global presence and impact.
Robots and Humans Working in Harmony
Led by the hugely successful and hyper-intelligent, Rodney Brooks, Rethink Robotics is transforming manufacturing processes all over the world with its collaborative robots and supporting software.
The Sawyer and Baxter cobots can operate safely alongside human counterparts who can teach behavior through simple demonstration. With Rethink Robotics, manufacturers see increased productivity and higher-quality throughput without having to invest tremendous time or capital.
This Untold story highlights another company that has created an undeniable value proposition for customers by enabling them to quickly differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded space and obtain a positive return on investment – an incredibly compelling sales pitch.
Brooks also anticipated the hesitation manufacturers would have over swapping out humans for robots so he had his team focus on designing a suite of products that would ease the transition. Now, his customers are pulling his products out of distribution centers rather than him having to push them out of the doors.
Always remember to articulate your offering in a way that resonates with your customer base. Find out what is most important to your potential clients and sell your product or service in their language!