Steve Jurvetson, a VC friend of Techonomy’s at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ordered a humanoid “Baxter” robot from Rethink Robotics and shared photos of taking it out of the box and plugging it into the wall. (Rethink’s founder Rodney Brooks spoke at Techonomy 2012.) Right out of the box, Jurvetson programmed Baxter by moving its arms. On his first try, he taught the robot to move cups across a table, reporting that Baxter was able to persevere even as people placed cups in random locations on the table. “It learns what its hands can do by looking at them against the table as background,” writes Jurvetson. “With new fingers, even 3D-printed custom fingers, it learns what it has for prosthetics with a glance and exercise of movement.”
Jurvetson sees robotics entering an era he compares to the Apple II days of personal computing, with “radically lower price points, plug and play simplicity, and democratized access.” Much as the PC liberated humans from repetitive computational tasks, Jurvetson sees robots relieving workers of mind-numbing, repetitive manual labor.