Rethink Robotics, the Boston, Mass.-based maker of collaborative robots Baxter and Sawyer, shut its doors today. Rethink was founded in 2008 and raised nearly $150 million to date, according to Crunchbase. Its last round of funding was an $18 million Series E in August 2017.
Rethink Robotics CEO Scott Eckert first confirmed the news via email to The Robot Report.
“I can confirm that unfortunately the news is true, Rethink Robotics closed its doors today,” Eckert writes. “We were pioneers and innovators in the industry and responsible for the creation of the collaborative robot category, but unfortunately we didn’t quite achieve the market success we had intended. We have been helping our team find new homes and have been overwhelmed with interest. It’s a world-class group of people will continue to do great things in their next endeavors.”
Inside the Rethink Robotics Shutdown
In follow-up comments to The Boston Globe, Eckert says an expected deal for Rethink Robotics to be acquired fell through. Rethink Robotics was short on cash as its robots sales failed to meet expectations. Rethink Robotics will soon begin selling off its patent portfolio and related IP.
This is tough news for robotics community, of course. Rethink, which was founded in 2008, has been an important part of growing the collaborative robotics market. Founded by Rodney Brooks and Ann Whitaker, Rethink Robotics sold the cobot concept so thoroughly that it’s now an important, growing segment of the robotics industry.
We last heard from Rethink Robotics, which was once known as Heartland Robotics, in July 2018 when it announced it was adding seven distributors throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Unfortunately, those distributors didn’t have much time to sell the Rethink concept.
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Rethink introduced Baxter in September 2011. The two-armed robot with an animated face is 3 feet 1 inches tall without its mobile pedestal, has 7 degrees of freedom in each arm, a 5 lb payload and maximum reach of 1210 mm. It can be programmed via demonstration and has extra controls for more precision and features.
Rethink followed up with Sawyer in 2015, the smaller, faster, stronger, more precise one-armed version of Baxter. Sawyer has a smaller footprint, 7 degrees of freedom and a slightly longer reach at 1260 mm maximum reach.
This story is developing and will be updated if we learn more.
Another Boston robotics company, Jibo, also recently shut down. The social robotics company was founded in 2012 by famed MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. The company raised nearly $73 million, but Jibo was plagued by a series of delays and overpromises.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 2 AM EDT with information about an expected deal falling through for a company to acquire Rethink Robotics.
Thomas Atwood says
The closing of Rethink Robotics is sad news, as this company was a pioneer in the development of robots that were emotionally sympathetic. One gravitated to Baxter at a trade show because the robot smiled back and looked at you, and its intelligently controlled end effectors appeared to be easily trainable working next to a human partner–breaking down the barriers between human and robot and helping establish the cobot concept. It seemed a remarkable step forward. Tom Atwood, founder and editor of Robot magazine, 2006 – 2014; Executive Director, The National Robotics Education Foundation, http://www.The-NREF.org.
Looking to buy sawyers for $2,500. Email me at [email protected]
Frank Li says
Catherine Simon says
I trust we will hear from Rodney Brooks and Rethink team members while they continue to pioneer the robotics market. There are so many more robots to conceive, design and put to market for the benefit of the citizens and the planet.
Monroe Good says
You can still purchase American made Baxter robots from the exclusive Global distributor at http://www.collabrobots.com There are less than 100 left in the world. Still an excellent robot for the education sector. Get your before they’re all gone!
Daniel McIlroy says
When I sell automation the customer always has the payback period forefront in their mind. Usually they are thinking “if i buy this robot i can save enough labor money in about two years.” Collaborative robots in their mind assist people, they do not replace them, so the payback is harder for them find.
We are from India and tried reaching Rethink Team several times.
Is it true that they are closing down? If so it is very sad.
We are very keen to have their partnership for India Market.
Can you help or guide us regarding this.
Steve Crowe says
Kiran, it is true Rethink closed. We did a follow-up piece that analyzed what exactly happened. You can read that piece here: https://www.therobotreport.com/rethink-robotics-shutdown/
However, a German company acquired Rethink’s IP and will continue to sell the products. You can read that story here: https://www.therobotreport.com/hahn-group-acquires-rethink-robotics-ip/
This post is worth everyone’s attention. Where can I
find out more?