Willow Garage is a company known mostly for its robotic hardware and open source software. Their most famous project has been the PR2 Robot. Although this was a highly advanced robot, the price and size of the bot was a little too much for most companies or manufacturers to invest in. Now a group of former employees for Willow Garage have come together to create a company of their own. It is called Unbounded Robotics and they have just announced their new robot, the UBR-1.
This will not be the first time former employees of Willow Garage have come together to create their own company. Not too long ago another group of former employees created Suitable Technologies, a company which specialized in developing a telepresence robot dubbed Beam. Unlike these other efforts the robot Unbounded has been developed almost in direct competition with their former PR2 robot. Unlike the PR2, the UBR-1 costs only $35,000 compared to the asking price of $400,000 for the PR2. This price drop makes it much more accessible to many companies and most of all, research institutions.
The Unbounded Robotics team consists of CEO Melonee Wise, CTO Michael Ferguson, lead systems engineer Derek King, and lead mechanical engineer Eric Diehr. Together they are hoping the drastically lower price of the robot will create a larger community surrounding the UBR-1. In addition, the new bot will be shipping with ROS Move It! software. This means people purchasing the robot will not have to develop their own algorithms for simple pick and place movements. This will allow people doing research on robotic movements or business applications to quickly get to work and eliminate the need to spend valuable time developing software.
During an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Derek King commented, “One of the things that having a little bit more of a business focus gives us is that we're committed to robust software, where it's about more than just a good demo. And that helps researchers when they're trying to build higher level applications on top of these more robust lower layers.”
As mentioned, the robot comes equipped with the ROS software. Furthermore, the robot features one arm with 7 degrees of freedom which can support a payload of 3.3 pounds. The bot stands anywhere from 32 to 52 inches, weighs 160 pounds, and moves around at a speed of 1m/s. Inside is a 4th generation Intel i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive. Running continuously the robot can work for approximately 3.5 hours and it will take that same amount of time to re-charge its batteries to 90% capacity.
Unbounded Robotics' UBR-1 (via UR)
The UBR-1 has also been built to support extra sensors and modifications which may be required for specific tasks. King stated, “The other thing we have on our robot are modularity points, so if you did want some higher level sensor, you could just mount it and have the UBS 3.0 connection to attach it to the computer. So for the people who want that extra sensor that they can't do without, it's easy to add to this platform. One of the other modularity points is the gripper: it can do 80 percent of the things you might want to do, but there's definitely a a lot of people that want either compliant grippers, or more fingers, or suction cups, or electrostatic. So to handle that, we made the gripper as modular as possible for either of us or outside vendors or even customers to replace our gripper with their own designs.”
The robot also possesses 3 USB ports, 1 display port, and an Ethernet port. The robot is not yet available and is not expected to begin shipping until next summer. However, any institution which was looking to invest in a robot for whatever reason may be waiting for the release thanks to its robust build and low price. Additionally, since the robot is more accessible, it can help advance robotics and create a common foundation for robotics researchers all around the world. And for anyone worried about the robot rebelling, it also has an emergency stop button easily accessible on its back.
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