Robot Butler Now Affordable

AffordableThe one-armed orange cyborg who goes by the name UBR-1 is perfect for your office, laboratory, or even your dinner party. The fantasy Jetsons life we once only dreamed of can now be yours for the sweet asking price of a $35,000. It may not be affordable for everyone, but this robot butler is just a stepping stone to a much broader realm of robotics.

Directing its motions is an app called MoveIt! equipped with a drag and drop interface that is said to be rather user-friendly. The relative ease of the interface is perfect for even the novice robotics user.  Users are able to test and direct UBR-1’s movements before actually making the robot perform them. A 3D model of the electronic butler allows the user to see the robot in its actual environment to alleviate any possible mishaps.

Unbounded Robotics, the makers of UBR-1, has made this more cost-effective robot as a spin-off from a pricier model, PR2- offered by Willow Garage. Several ex-Willow employees have put their heads together to bring us this not-so-over-the-top mini me of PR2.  UBR-1 has all the functionality of PR2 but comes with a much more reasonable price tag.

The original PR2 is capable of many different tasks; from delivering a soda out of the refrigerator, to folding clothes fresh from the dryer. Robotics fans world-wide were beaming with excitement at the idea of such a worldly butler. However, there was one big problem with owning one- the price to own it was $400,000.

How is this new, brightly colored, 160 pound fella able to sell so cheaply? UBR-1 has but one arm. This not only cuts down on costs, but also allows for the programming to be efficient; and to some, simple. The single arm is capable of seven different motions and comes equipped with a gripping mechanism. The head is able to tilt and has a motion-sensing camera built in. A microphone allows it to speak as well as “hear” commands.

Simple tasks, like picking up and delivering objects is an easy job for this 4-foot-3 robot. Being equipped with MoveIt! means this little guy is practically ready-to-go right out of the box. Running on ROS (Robot Operating System) means UBR-1 is primarily a robot for research; but the Ubuntu Linux LTS installed allows for any new robotic apps roboticists can conjure up.

This new robot is said to have been designed with specific customers in mind. The potential customer would be looking for automated tasks like shelf-stocking, production logging and many other mundane day-to-day duties.

For all the science-fiction fans and Star Wars enthusiasts, this new cost-effective robot may not be a doable price range, but with a $365,000 price reduction in just a year, imagine what the next robot will cost. C3PO may have only been a dream for many, but as the Roombas and military robots continue to be improved upon, it may not be that far off that UBR-1 turns into something even more productive and affordable. As science progresses, C3PO may be closer to fruition that anyone could even imagine. Affordable robots are just a stone’s throw away at this rate.

UBR-1 will be available soon, and the first models will be ready in the summer of 2014.


Editorial written by: Amy Magness Whatley










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