The Robot Report broke the unfortunate news yesterday that Rethink Robotics shut down. The Boston, Mass.-based collaborative robotics pioneer, and maker of the Baxter and Sawyer cobots, reportedly had a deal in place to be acquired, but that deal fell through.
The Robot Report heard rumblings for some time that Rethink, founded in 2008 by iRobot co-founder Rodney Brooks and Ann Whitaker, was in trouble. However, it caught many in the robotics industry by surprise.
Below is a snapshot of the reaction that has poured in about the end of Rethink Robotics. As you’ll see, many were shocked, some were not, and some are sharing lessons to be learned.
If you’d like to share your thoughts about Rethink Robotics, please leave a message in the comments.
Robotics is hard part XXVIII.https://t.co/ZORvXjZrJD
— Ryan Calo (@rcalo) October 4, 2018
Sorry to read this. Rethink Robotics Closes its Doors https://t.co/F0SoOu9O7H
— Helen Greiner (@helengreiner) October 4, 2018
— ROS-Industrial (@ROSIndustrial) October 3, 2018
“We always thought of Sawyer as an interesting robot and planned on supporting it. Sadly, that won’t be the case now. Rethink Robotics helped create the collaborative robot category that is doing immensely well nowadays. This might be one of those cases that show how hard pioneering a category is, especially in hardware. You need to get all the details right very early on, long before market feedback is available.” – Ronnie Vuine, Co-founder and CEO, Micropsi Industries
Sad to read that local to me @RethinkRobotics is closing after being such a trendsetter in #Roboticshttps://t.co/kLpkjvGe8q
I wonder what further consolidation we’ll see in the market?#AdditiveManufacturing too – as also seems to have more companies than sustainable longterm
— Ray Sims (@rsims) October 4, 2018
curious about the “more complex” argument
“Baxter maybe didn’t do as well in the marketplace (and) Sawyer was maybe playing catch-up,” “It’s tough to compete with Universal.” (@jeffburnstein)https://t.co/jnItSWYMlx
— Alexei Finski (@alexeifinski) October 4, 2018
“We have to be thankful to Rethink for generating a lot of awareness and excitement around collaborative robots. Without their bold vision and PR impact, the industry would not be where it is today.” – Samuel Bouchard, president, Robotiq
Whaaaat? Rethink Robotics Closes its Doors https://t.co/s7USfJPDuo via @therobotreport
— Davide Faconti (@facontidavide) October 4, 2018
A bit sad for @rodneyabrooks, but only a bit. Rethink’s input was important for evolving cobotics, still like the face approach, but never really left research. So it’s time to rethink @RethinkRobotics for next level cobotics;
— Marcus Frei (@MarcusFrei_) October 4, 2018
Anticipated, but heartbreaking news!! The morale; it’s not only the celebrity founder, abundance of funding, nor publicity that makes a team successful; it’s much more than that….#startups #innovation #VC https://t.co/qni9sUtqX9
— Fady Saad (@FadySaad99) October 3, 2018
“Unfortunately, sometimes being a pioneer comes with added risk. This is a great example of how an early entrant into a market can drive awareness but not succeed due to several factors, the most significant I believe being the point of others taking lessons learned from what Rethink has done and improving upon it and doing so with greater resources.” – John Santagate, research director, service robots, IDC
In the midst of the AI boom, robotics companies shut down including @rodneyabrooks Rethink Robotics and Cynthia Breazeal’s Jibo. https://t.co/MHIzetFZwn
— Oren Etzioni (@etzioni) October 4, 2018
Sad news about @RethinkRobotics closing down. While people try to question the overall health of the robotics industry, I think this is mostly due to the high competition in the area (Universal robots?). All in all, should not forget that Rethink made collaborative robotics real.
— Siavash Farzan (@SFarzan1) October 4, 2018
😶… All I have to say… https://t.co/T4kU44OUyK
— Melonee Wise (@meloneewise) October 4, 2018
Rethink Robotics shut down on Wednesday, @rodneyabrooks confirmed to us late last night. One of the most influential robotics companies of the last decade, and robotics won’t be the same without them. 🙁 pic.twitter.com/mNlD321Mcr
— Evan Ackerman (@BotJunkie) October 4, 2018
“Like startups 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. Some or all of these factors may have impacted Rethink.
“But in no way does this slow the development or current user excitement about collaborative robots. We see strong and growing demand for information on this segment of the market,” he said. “And, while Rethink sadly exits the market, dozens of other companies from around the world are entering the collaborative robot market.” – Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and the RIA
Ruzena Bajcsy says
This is very sad news and detrimental for education and training the future generation of roboticists.
I use them in my course(150 students) with every week lab sessions.
Bruce Welty says
Rethink’s robots were not built to solve a specific problem. It was a roboticist’s robot, not a tool for a job. Robots are not always the best way to solve a problem. They are still in their infancy and not very capable. We have a ways to go before Rodney’s dream (and the dream of all the other autonomous grasping systems inventors) becomes real, even minimally viable, products.
I agree it is sad, yet it will focus the inventors, the investors and the customers on the right stuff.
Thanks for reporting this subject so well. It matters to all of us in the community.