UBR-1 starts at just $35,000, which is wicked cheap for a robot this capable
We’ve been following Unbounded Robotics, the final spin-off from Willow Garage, since we first learned of the company’s existence back in April. Unbounded has been working in stealth mode for the past year, but our best guess was that they were developing a low-cost mobile manipulator for research and education: something like a PR2, except (we were hoping) significantly cheaper. Today, Unbounded is unveiling UBR-1, a shiny new human-scale one-armed robot designed to completely revolutionize the market for research and education robotics and beyond, for just a tiny fraction of the cost of similar platforms.
If you didn’t catch all of those specs, here’s the basics of what we’re looking at: UBR-1 is a 13-DoF mobile robot that includes a 7-DoF arm. It navigates with a laser scanner in its base, and uses a PrimeSense 3D sensor in its head for perception. Thanks to a torso lift, the robot can pick objects up off the floor, and put them onto tables and countertops. It’s got a beefy computer in the torso, along with two big fat batteries that’ll keep it running for up to 5 hours continuously, or up to 10 if it’s not moving around too much, and you can get a charging dock so that you never have to plug it in. UBR-1 runs ROS, and comes out of the box with the ability to navigate and interact with objects. And (arguably) the most important spec of all is that UBR-1 starts at just $35,000, which is wicked cheap for a robot this capable.
As Unbounded Robotics says in their blog post this morning, “as Willow Garage alumni, we realize that UBR-1 will undoubtedly be compared to thePR2 robot from Willow Garage.” Yep, no kidding. It’s easy to just compare specs: the PR2 has two arms and costs $400,000 while UBR-1 has one arm and costs $35,000 sums it up in a nutshell. But obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. To get some perspective on how the research community is reacting to UBR-1, we spoke with Pieter Abbeel from UC Berkeley, who was one of the participants in the PR2 Beta Program and has been working with PR2s just about as long as anyone. He got an early look at UBR-1 a few weeks ago, and here’s what he told us: