Baxter is a low-cost ($25,000) industrial robot designed to work "elbow to elbow" with human co-workers. It incorporates a variety of interesting design ideas in hardware, software, and wetware interfacing (that's fancy talk for how it interacts with humans).
- Force sensing joints allow it's arms to stop if they hit an obstacle, co-worker, etc
- Programmed by physically moving it's arms to show it where to pick things up, put them down, etc
- Cameras on each hand learn what specific objects look like
- Interactive display mimics a human face including various expressions
- Designed to work alongside humans, not to replace them
Here's Rodney Brooks doing a TED talk about Baxter and the need for humans and robots to work together in the future.
And for those who want more details about how Baxter actually works (this means you) here's Rodney Brooks giving lots of them in an hour long seminar to Carnegie Mellon Univiersity robotics students. The strange term he mentions in the talk is Quaternian by the way.
Here's a montage of Baxter robots doing actual work in various factories.