Your dreams of owning a robot-servant could soon be a reality—if you have an extra $35,000 laying around, that is.
Unbounded Robotics, a spinoff company of Willow Garage—the creators of the PR2 robot—have released the UBR-1, a smallish one-armed autonomous robot that’s being billed as “affordable” at $35,000. Of course, everything’s relative; the PR2 costs between $285,000 and $400,000.
With UBR-1, you get a lot of bang for your buck, though. The bot can detect where it’s going, see what’s around it and manipulate objects with its arm. Better yet, its designers say it was modeled to interact closely with humans. So, it has the basics covered, and then some. Let's just say, it could fetch you a beer from the fridge.
UBR-1 has a telescoping spine that lets it “stand up” to 52 inches tall. It weighs 150 pounds, and its arm can lift up to 1.5 kilograms. It uses two PrimeSense sensor bars to gather data on and move within its surroundings. To think through its tasks, UBR-1 features an Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive. It runs open-source ROS software platform developed by Willow Garage, so users can program the bot as precisely as they want. They can also control it in two different ways: with a PS3 controller to manually drive it around, or via its software.
Another interesting tidbit lies in the reason UBR-1 was created in the first place: Melonee Wise, the CEO of Unbounded Robotics, split from Willow Garage with three coworkers specifically to design the UBR-1. After working on PR2, Wise had seen an opportunity to make a robot for the everyman—and at a fraction of the cost. They planned to forego many of the expensive, unnecessary hardware on board many robots (including a second arm—genius!).
The result is UBR-1, which will be available to buy in summer of 2014.