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Robotics Technology

One-Armed UBR-1 Points the Way To Cheaper Robots 56

waderoush writes "One of the problems that kept PR2, a two-armed humanoid robot developed by Menlo Park, CA-based Willow Garage, from succeeding commercially was its $400,000 price tag. But as it turned out, only a handful of the 40 or so universities that own PR2s ever developed applications that use both arms. That's one of the reasons why UBR-1, a mobile manipulator robot from Willow Garage spinoff Unbounded Robotics, has only one arm. And that, along with many other engineering decisions and technology improvements, will allow the startup to sell its robot for just $35,000 (it's designed for materials-handling tasks in places like warehouses, elder care facilities, and supermarkets). 'With robots, feature creep is so much more present than in some other fields,' says Unbounded co-founder and CEO Melonee Wise. 'There is always this desire to make a Swiss Army knife. But you have to make compromises, and those compromises directly impact the capabilities as well as the cost of the robot.' One roboticist told Unbounded: 'Your robot is so inexpensive that if I needed to have a second arm, I'd just buy a second robot.'"
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One-Armed UBR-1 Points the Way To Cheaper Robots

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  • by njvack ( 646524 )
    Now I can start my Robot Def Leppard!
  • Before I realized the significance of the hyphen, my brain briefly parsed that sentence like "An armed [] UBR-1..."

    • If one armed UBR-1 pointed the way to cheaper robots, I would definitely go that way!

  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:28PM (#45737743)

    They think removing one arm to reduce costs is a compromise?

    They should speak to the engineering team who conceived the fleshlight.

  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:30PM (#45737775)

    When asked for a comment, the robot replied "'tis but a scratch"

  • They could save even more by replacing the arm with a plunger. And binocular vision is overrated, just have one eye on a swinging stalk.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • One-Armed UBR-1 Points the Way To Cheaper Robots

    Good thing it still has it's pointing arm!

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:33PM (#45737807)

    At this rate, robots priced for normal people will only be able to give you the finger, just one finger, because that's all they'll have.

  • by ardmhacha ( 192482 ) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:43PM (#45737917)

    'Your robot is so inexpensive that if I needed to have a second arm, I'd just buy a second robot

    A single robot that can control two arms is very different from two separate robots that each have a single arm.

  • A proper statistical analysis should have revealed long ago that a one-armed robot is more than adequate for at least 95% of grad students running masturbatorial subroutines.

  • "'There is always this desire to make a Swiss Army knife"

    Like this guy? []

  • by Anonymous Coward it's just an arm and a leg.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @02:24PM (#45738329)

    $400,000 for two arms down to only $35,000 for one?

    That second arm must have had ``Kung-Fu Grip''.

  • Seems cool, but it can't lift very much (about 3 pounds).

    • If it could life much more then that, OSHA would require safety gates around it.

      • I don't understand that... mobile robots do seem to be allowed by OSHA.

        Further, presence-sensing systems as a means of guarding do seem to be acceptable, provided they have adequate reliability and are effective... so if the gizmo can always determine someone got too close, and it can always stop safely (or at least slow down to the recommended slow speed)... that should be OK.

        On the other hand, I have some concerns about the usefulness of a robot that can't lift a six-pack.

        A tool should be both useful and

      • by dbc ( 135354 )

        Well, sort of. What makes it safe to be around is that it is low mass, has a low upper speed bound, and is back-drivable. The UBR-1 arm is not counterbalanced in the same way that the PR-2 arm is, so the UBR-1 arm consumes power holding up an object proportional to the torque required to hold station. That varies with how far out from the "shoulder" the load is held.

        Given that you could design the mass and speed such that the arm could hold a larger load and still be safe to be around outside of a cage,

  • Quimby's Usiform Robots, from the short story "Q.U.R." by Anthony Boucher.

  • There is always this desire to make a Swiss Army knife. But you have to make compromises, and those compromises directly impact the capabilities as well as the cost of the robot.

    ...and the logical conclusion of that is to design the robot to do one specific task and it will do that task very well at minimal cost.

    We already have things like that. We call them machines. While these "robot manufacturers" a.k.a. kids with too much money on their hands who want to pretend like they're investing it while they waste it away building cool toys... Anyway, while they like to sit around and imagine their robots that can lift a whole 3 pounds and move it at a mind-boggling 10 cm/s will find

  • Can it make the sound of one robot hand clapping?
  • I've long wanted something like this, a telepresence bot with a camera, an arm, a few tools in reach, and a supply of cables for use in telco data centers. No more calling remote hands or trudging over to equinix, just sign out a robot, steer it to the cage, do the troubleshooting, then send it back. Sadly, I doubt it'll ever happen, the temptation of engineers to sign out robots and running jousting competitions in the aisles would just be too tempting.
  • The Fugitive would have been very different.
  • Pretty soon they can do the mining, foundry work, assemble and tune themselves.
    So when you're in the front line of that riot of 8 billion people protesting lost jobs because of robots... just remember robots don't care =)

  • A one armed robot for elder care facilities? They are really gearing up for the retiring /. crowd aren't they. I don't blame them. I don't want to touch it either.

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.