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Infographic: Robots & Automation in U.S. Manufacturing

Kuka Robotics put together this nifty infographic describing how manufacturing robots aren't necessarily evil job stealin' machines of... evil. It's especially timely what with yesterday's big news about a certain robotics company that wants to use robots to make domestic manufacturing more cost effective and efficient, although Rethink is tackling things much differently than big boys like Kuka.

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Rethink Robotics Announces Baxter Robot Helper, We Go Hands-On in Boston

Photo: David Yellen for IEEE Spectrum

So, you remember how we took that trip to Boston back in June to see iRobot? Well, it wasn't really to see iRobot, as awesome as that was. Really, it was to see Rethink Robotics, meet Rodney Brooks, and find out what they'd been working on so secretly all this time. So yes, we've known all about it since June but were sworn to secrecy, until just this second: today, right now, Rethink Robotics is announcing Baxter, a dual-armed robot factory helper robot designed to take over simple tasks for humans. It's completely safe to work around, a cinch to program with absolutely zero training, and most importantly, it only costs $22,000, making it eminently affordable for even small businesses.

Rethink Robotics and Baxter will be the cover story for the October issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine, but you can read our entire article right now on the Spectrum website. Let us know what you think, and feel free to post questions! We spent over six hours at Rethink interviewing all kinds of different people and getting demos of Baxter, and we couldn't possibly stuff all of that information into just one article, so we're happy to expand on whatever you're most interested in.

Check out our feature article on Rethink and Baxter here.

iRobot Sweeps Up Evolution Robotics for $74 Million

iRobot just sent out a press release announcing its acquisition of Evolution Robotics, maker of the Mint swifferbot, for $74 million in cash. We literally just got this, and there's going to be a conference call tomorrow morning, but we'll briefly talk about what we know right now.

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Your Kid Wants a Thymio II Education Robot

How much robot can you get for a hundred bucks? Not much: $100 is about a quarter of a Roomba. A quarter of a cheap Roomba. Or, you can spend it on an open source education robot from Switzerland that will help your kids to learn how to do things besides not vacuuming the floor.

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Video Friday: Telepresence Tallness, Twisty Tentacles, and Robot on Robot Violence

Hey, guess what? It's robot season! I know, I know, around here it's always robot season. But this next month is absolutely positively packed with robot news and events, from major (major) new product releases that we can't tell you about yet to big events ranging from RoboBusiness in Pittsburgh to Combots in San Francisco to IROS in Portugal.

Of course, none of that stuff has happened yet, but that's not stopping Video Friday from being full of, you know, videos. We've got space robots, paper robots, some lovely robot films, and even some robotic tentacles. So let's get kraken!

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Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots

This is a guest post. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of Automaton, IEEE Spectrum, or the IEEE. 

“Why do you cry, Gloria? Robbie was only a machine, just a nasty old machine. He wasn’t alive at all.”
“He was not no machine!” screamed Gloria fiercely and ungrammatically. “He was a person like you and me and he was my friend.”

– Isaac Asimov (1950)

Most discussions of “robot rights” play out in a seemingly distant, science-fictional future. While skeptics roll their eyes, advocates argue that technology will advance to the point where robots deserve moral consideration because they are “just like us,” sometimes referencing the movie Blade Runner. Blade Runner depicts a world where androids have human-like emotions and develop human-like relationships to the point of being indistinguishable from people. But Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel on which the film is based, contains a small, significant difference in storyline. In the book, the main character falls in love with an android that only pretends to requite his feelings. Even though he is fully aware of this fact, he maintains the one-directional emotional bond. The novel touches on a notably different, yet plausible, reality: humans’ moral consideration of robots may depend more on our own feelings than on any inherent qualities built into robots. 

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IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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