This year the Baxter collaborative robot, which arrived in late 2016, was integrated with an autonomous mobility base, with the help of funding from the College of Science Engineering and Health on behalf of A/Prof James Harland. Baxter and the mobility base are designed to work safely alongside humans and are programmable using the Robot Operating System. This is an open-source platform for developing and integrating robot applications, which enables significant customization of Baxter’s behaviour and off the shelf reuse of existing robotics technology, such as: computer vision, and path planning for multi-axis arms movement and navigation.


Baxter and friend at the opening of RMIT University’s New Academic Street on the City Campus.


Baxter will enable cross-disciplinary research and student experience in software engineering-related disciplines such as automation and gaming. This year, a group of Computer Science, Information Technology and Software Engineering students have been using Baxter to prototype a demonstrator for robotic, virtual reality haptics (tactile feedback), with Dr Stefan Greuter from the Center for Games Design Research. The demonstrator uses Baxter as a physical avatar that provides tactile physical feedback in a combat simulation, and it will be used, in a research project, to evaluate the impact of haptics in virtual reality. A masters minor thesis student, Mark Scicluna, is working with A/Prof James Harland on applying path planning research to simple scenarios, such as moving safely around the laboratory.


Dr Greuter demonstrating robot haptics project to Prince Andrew (Channel 9)


Newly-found mobility has enabled Baxter to attend two major events in September: the opening of RMIT University’s New Academic Street (NAS), taking selfies with students; and a presentation of the robot haptics demonstrator to HRH Prince Andrew the Duke of York, in conjunction with his visit to Melbourne as patron of the Pitch@Palace technology startup initiative.