UBR-1 is a new generation of mobile manipulators designed with one arm that can do all sorts of tasks, and with a great potential to be used in research and educational projects. Since the one arm mobile platform can activate in areas such as research and education, in this article I explore the design, technologies and performances of the UBR-1.
The UBR-1 reminds us in many aspects to the PR2, which is one of the most advanced human-like robots started as an open-source platform by Willow Garage. Behind the UBR-1 robot is a small team of engineers grouped under the name Unbounded Robotics, which after years of research, together brought to life the low-cost mobile manipulator. Performing a wide range of task in the real world is only a requirement for programming side.
Designed in mind with the potential to be used in research, education or other areas, UBR-1 is a highly customizable platform, a human-scale one-armed robot that supports a large number of custom applications.
The affordable price paid for such a platform is the consequence of optimizations by which the robot has passed, even if the performance remained at a high level. The UBR-1 can be compared with PR2 even if the price difference is one astronomical. High mobility, flexible manipulation, and brilliant intelligence are three features that could easily be used to create new applications and projects from scratch.
Short overview about the design of UBR-1.
The UBR-1 was designed to revolutionize the area of open-source platforms used to develop the next generation of robots. From here on, the challenge is to transform the robot into human-scale tasks machinery that work for humans, know and cares about what it does.
The exterior is not very excited and can be noticed that it was not a race to make the most beautiful robot. The UBR-1 has a robust structure that lets users to add more components and tools necessary for the real world tasks. Quality build, the solid structure of the robot was designed for easy maintenance and modification.
Shapes and colors
Rounded shapes and vivid colors were chosen to define the appearance taking into account the relation between robots and humans. With rounded and friendly edges, the robot has a telescopic body to be always at the required height. By approximating the workspace for a human and compared with the workspace claimed by the robot, can be concluded that both humans and the UBR-1 can fit in the same area. This feature is very important since the robot can operate in human environments.
The one arm robot has a total of 13 degrees of freedom of which only the arm has 7 degrees of freedom. Compared with a human arm that in total has seven degrees of freedom, this metal and plastic arm can do up to 80% of what a human can do with one arm. More than that, the gripper has a modular design, which means that can be easily replaced with custom tools.
Navigation and control
A wide range of sensor and a powerful processor that run Linux administrate everything feels and make the robot. It is a robot with a world of sensors inside its body including here 3D or laser sensors. The 3D sensor is located in the head and help the robot to see the world. The laser sensor is located in front of the wheels and help the robot to map the room and to have a clear navigation.
The robot can be controlled in two ways. The manual control is the first and the simplest method of control. The user can give precise instruction using a PS3 controller. The second method is to spend hundreds of hours to write thousands of lines of code to control the robot. And, yes, it can be controlled via software provided by the manufacturer.
How easy it is to work with UBR-1? It is as easy as you plug a cable into the USB 3.0 extension of the robot and start to develop applications. Based on open-source software like Ubuntu Linux LTS and ROS, any user can have full access to robot components and start to add new or improved functionality. Choosing the open-source development model will attract a community around the UBR-1 that will encourage users to share code.
Modular structure for robot parts and hardware
Based on modular structure, UBR-1 is a highly customizable human-like robot, is like a box where you can add or remove components. This is a valuable and expensive feature because different systems like sensors, motors, or actuators share the same platform and have to work as one system.
Additional sensors can be added into the head, which is the vision system for UBR-1. The UBR-1 navigates helped by a PrimeSense 3D sensor and complex algorithms that offer the perception for the robot.
Another important component is the gripper, and this is one of the main components that can be removed and replaced with custom tools.
The extensible body makes more flexible the robot and increases the range areas where UBR-1 can activate by doing several tasks. This is the case when the robot can be useful to grasp objects from the floor and put them on a table.
The robot can work for up to 5 hours after then it has to move to the charging dock and recharge the battery.
Starting with August 2014 the UBR-1 is delivered in the United States, Canada and Mexico, while in Asia, Australia, and Europe the distribution relationships are in work. At this moment the company focuses on only one product with a price of $50,000.