Heartland Robotics Now Rethink Robotics, Still Developing Mystery Industrial Robot

Heartland changes its name to Rethink, scores a bunch of new capital, and promises to unveil a new robot before 2013

2 min read
Heartland Robotics Now Rethink Robotics, Still Developing Mystery Industrial Robot

We still don't know a heck of a lot about what Heartland Robotics is up to out there in its stealthy Boston lair, but we do know a bunch more today than we did yesterday. For starters, Heartland has changed its name to "Rethink Robotics," in order to "better represent the breadth and impact of [its] vision," and the new website and press release helps to refine with that vision actually is.

 

Far be it from us to just quote giant pieces from a press release, but, well, we're just gonna quote giant pieces from the press release because this is more or less as much info as we've got on what Heartland Rethink is planning:

Rethink Robotics is developing a new generation of robots to improve productivity in manufacturing environments. The robots will be intuitive to use, capable of autonomously sensing and adapting to their environment, versatile, and flexible. They’ll be easy to buy, train, and deploy and will be much less expensive than traditional industrial robots.
Rethink Robotics products will reflect the company’s new vision of a much more broadly adopted automation approach that will do for manufacturing workers what the PC did for office workers—increase their productivity by giving them direct access to technological tools.
“Just as businesses had to completely rethink ways to use computers when the PC was first introduced, they will want to take advantage of opportunities created by this new class of robot,” said Rod Brooks, chairman, founder, and CTO of Rethink Robotics. “With our robots, businesses will have the opportunity to rethink manufacturing, rethink automation, and rethink outsourcing.”
Rethink Robotics today announced that it had secured $30 million in Series C financing [bringing its total funding to $57 million]. The funds will be used to launch the company’s new robot product, begin development of new product lines, and expand sales, marketing, and services operations.

We also learned from the press release that the robot will be announced later this year. We're not sure exactly when, but it's definitely going to be before 2013. Stay tuned!

[ Rethink Robotics ] via [ Boston.com ]

 

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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