Unleashed and Unbounded

Unbounded Robotics UBR-1 robot image.

If you were excited about Baxter by Rethink Robotics, then the is one you should take a look at.  Unbounded Robotics* was founded by four former employees of Willow Garage, the UBR-1 was heavily influenced by the PR2.  With the UBR-1 also being ROS enabled, there should be some relatively fast application development.    

Perhaps the most amazing part of the UBR-1 is the cost.  Whereas the PR2 runs around $300,000 (currently, though it did run as high as $400,000 when first introduced), the UBR-1 starts at $35,000.  Though it only has one arm, it is mobile and can vary its height from 38” - 52”.  The main reason for the cost difference between the PR2 and the UBR-1 is the sensors.  The PR2 was designed roughly around 2008, still several years before devices like Microsoft’s Kinect would hit the market.  That device alone costs several thousand dollars then and can be had for under $300 today.  Now redesign a whole robot with similar cost reductions and voila.  There are also multiple USB ports on the unit to add on options of your own creation.  

A remote presence robot like this has a really good chance at entering the market as a service robot relatively soon.  With one arm, now opening doors or pressing buttons for elevators, routine deliveries in a hospital or office are now possible, without having to install a multitude of sensors.  Mundane tasks at home can be automated or help assist Grandma, helping to keep her out of the nursing home for a few more years.  Honestly at this price, it is a steal compared to a year of assisted living.    

These robots are slated to be shipping in August so I would expect and SDK for use with Gazebo to be released near that time as well.  It will be exciting to see labs that have both Baxter and UBR-1  I can easily envision the UBR-1 pulling carts to feed Baxter and working together on an assembly line.  If nothing else the UBR-1 can use it’s single arm to walk the dog.  

*Unbounded Robotics is no longer in business (Updated January 2016).

Unbounded Robotics video of the UBR-1 telepresence robot.

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