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Interacting with Baxter

The Baxter robot has been designed so that humans can work with it safely. Watch Professor Richard Mitchell interact with the robot in this video.

The original industrial robots were large devices capable of moving very rapidly where it was important for safety reasons that humans kept out of the way. The robots may have been put in a cage as a result.

The Baxter robot is different – it has been designed specifically so that humans and it can be in the same place and can interact with them safely.

This means that Baxter has to be able to detect where humans are and so attempt not to bump into them. It uses its patented ‘series elastic actuators’ and ‘force detecting sensors’ which mean its robot arms are ‘compliant’ so that when they do hit a human or other object they do so safely.

We have seen the robot picking up balls in the previous Step, and that requires a relatively complicated program. If it is to do some other task, a different program is needed. It takes time to write such programs and get them right. How do you decide what Baxter should do?

To address this issue Baxter has a nice feature. It stems from the fact that a good way of teaching someone something, is to show what you want. So, if Baxter is to pick up balls, one way of doing that is to grab hold of one of its arms and move it until the gripper is in the right place – showing Baxter what it should do.

In this video you see Richard teaching Baxter to move with one arm, and the other arms does the same actions – a great example of human-robot interaction.

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