Melonee Wise and Michael Ferguson from Unbounded Robotics demo UBR-1 at HBRC

Alan, Alex and Maxim attended the November HBRC featuring the UBR-1 by Unbounded Robots and presented by Melonee Wise (CEO) and Michael Ferguson (CTO).  Below is Alan’s report.

The HBRC presentation had 3 parts.  First, Melonee gave a nice presentation on the history of robots contrasting real robots vs. the high expectations set by fictional robots.  The presentation featured excellent vintage videos of robots.  In the center section, Melonee did Q&A, which is the focus of the rest of this blog entry. Finally, Michael gave a demo of UBR-1 which is in the following video.  Note that while the base was stationary during the demo, Michael was driving UBR-1 via joystick around the room before the presentation.  Also, the screen on the video is hard to see, but it was displaying the robot model that was moving in sync with the real robot.

The base model for UBR-1 is $35,000.  This price tag is a lot less than the PR2, but still a lot more than PR2Lite cost to build. IEEE Automation had a nice introduction to UBR-1 with a nice follow up interview.

Other news coverage actually called the UBR-1 a PR2-Lite!

The following is a summary of the info from the Q&A.

The UBR-1 has a 7 DOF arm and a 14″ telescopic torso.  It has a 3-D camera similar to a Kinect.  Such a camera cost $10,000 when PR2 was designed.  The PR2’s Batteries (1.2 kilowatts for 2 hours), the custom servers with the first 4 quad-core i7s, and other decisions for the PR2 were not chosen with production at scale in mind.  UBR-1 has the advantage of the latest technology advances and being designed for production.

The UBR-1 has a Laser scanner with a range of 4 to 6 meters at 180 degrees.  Both the 3-D camera and Laser scanner are indoor only.

The arm is 7 DOF with the same joint configuration as PR2.  The UBR-1 has a higher reach (by 3″), a better ground reach, and a longer cross-table reach compared to the PR2 despite having a shorter arm than the PR2.  This is partially due to the greater joint angles and a better base to arm ratio.The UBR-1 arm is designed for low inertia (by minimizing the swinging mass).  The arm design tries to minimize pinch points.  The arms currently use a numerical solver right now, but may move to something faster like OpenRave IKFast.  The arms have a max payload of 1.5 kilograms at full extension.The arm uses active gravity compensation to keep the arm in-place and compliant.  Forward kinematics are used to determine torque.  If the emergency-off button is triggered, then the arms will slowly fall.  Active gravity compensation consumes power, even when the robot is otherwise idle, but it is only 12 watts with the arm straight out.  PR2 used counterbalanced arms, but this comes at a cost of greater weight. (note: the UBR-1 is 160 pounds vs 450 pounds for PR2.) For an active robot, active compensation should be better.

The UBR-1 base model has an i5 server with 8 gig of RAM.  ARM microprocessors are distributed through the robot.  It takes 8 screws to replace the battery. There’s a cable harness down the arm. Driving takes 80-100 watts for the base.  Arm movement consumes 25 watts. The computer consumes up to 60 watts. There are 600 watt hours of battery. Automatic docking to a recharger is supported. Most of the rest of the internals are currently trade secrets.

UBR-1 travels at .75 meters per second.  It has wheel encoders with sub-millimeter accuracy which are fused with IMU sensor data to compensate for slippage.

The UBR-1 is envisioned for the markets including educational/research, light manufacturing (stocking shelves, biomedical), elderly care, and hospitality (room service,  EPG – Evidence of prior guest).  Although UBR-1 can support remote actuation (e.g., through ROS), it has no screen to make it targeted at the telepresence market. Series A funding will be raised soon. The robots should start delivery in the summer of 2014.

Software is based on ROS and MoveIt!  Unbounded Robotics plans to release an open source developers kit.  A gazebo simulation is planned to be released soon, but gazebo is undergoing significant changes due to the DARPA challenge.

Remember when PR2Lite took on Maxwell at Maker Faire to play chess? Well, UBR-1 plays chess too!


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