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Cobot maker Rethink Robotics closes

Issue: November 2018

If Sawyer and Baxter had ever been programmed to show sadness, that might be what you’d see now, as the robots famous for their humanoid faces react to their company’s shutdown.

Rethink Robotics, the Boston manufacturer that advanced collaborative-robot (cobot) technology with the introductions of Sawyer and Baxter, closed abruptly last month.

Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation/Robotic Industries Association, suggested Rethink, which unveiled its two-armed cobot, Baxter, in 2012, might have fallen victim to the problems many new companies face. “Like start-ups in all sectors, not everything goes smoothly. Sometimes early products aren’t exactly as good as you would like, sometimes new ideas don’t receive immediate market acceptance, and sometimes other market players gain traction sooner,” he said in a statement released to the media.

Founded by iRobot creator Rodney Brooks, Rethink revolutionized the cobot industry with its development of Baxter and Sawyer, a one-armed sibling that made its debut in 2015.

Officials at Rethink Robotics could not be reached for comment, but Burnstein said he’s optimistic about the future of cobots. “In fact,” he said, “the entire robotics and automation market is booming globally, fueled in interest in collaborative robots.”