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

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the points-with-it-one-puny-arm dept.

Robotics 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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Normal robotics product. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737683)

So, they switched to traditional robotics. You can buy such arms from Siemens, Panasonic etc.

Re:Normal robotics product. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738071)

It's still progress on the american people's constitutional right to bear arms.

Yes! (1)

njvack (646524) | about 7 months ago | (#45737689)

Now I can start my Robot Def Leppard!

Yay, English! (1)

sootman (158191) | about 7 months ago | (#45737711)

Before I realized the significance of the hyphen, my brain briefly parsed that sentence like "An armed [wikipedia.org] UBR-1..."

Re:Yay, English! (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 7 months ago | (#45738135)

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

Re:Yay, English! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738207)

You can already buy cheaper one armed robots:
http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/6--axis-robot.html [alibaba.com]

So I doubt the real advance/breakthrough is in the arm.

I'm not sure if there's any real breakthrough being made, even in slashvertising.

Re:Yay, English! (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 7 months ago | (#45738495)

I think you missed it; in this point in the discussion, the proper sentence should be...

"You can already buy one cheaper armed robot...."

I'm holding out for fully armed mechas for $199....

Re:Yay, English! (1)

Tuidjy (321055) | about 7 months ago | (#45738661)

Try to keep up with the program:
1. Your links didn't lead to even one cheaper armed robot.
2. Your linked robots all have fixed bases, while the one in the article can move around. I am not spending my money on even one armed robot if I cannot use it offensively.

Re:Yay, English! (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 7 months ago | (#45744357)

Wooooosh!

The Other Arm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737735)

The other arm has been replaced with a chaingun (rocket launcher optional).

Too little too late (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 7 months ago | (#45737743)

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

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

Re:Too little too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737975)

They've done allot more than that. PR2 was never really designed for mass production like the UBR-1 was. In addition, they're using more cost effective sensors, lower cost batteries and more.

Re:Too little too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738687)

"allot"?

Re:Too little too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45739267)

I'm pretty sure he meant to say, "they done allotted".

This isn't news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738065)

Almost all industrial robots are single arm units. What is news.

Elder care facilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737745)

Only needs to waive one arm to keep kids off lawn.

Re:Elder care facilities (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 7 months ago | (#45738513)

Only needs to waive one arm to keep kids off lawn.

They already waived one arm; that's why they've only got one now....

Proper interview (4, Funny)

bob_super (3391281) | about 7 months ago | (#45737775)

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

Even more savings (1)

drjoe1e6 (461358) | about 7 months ago | (#45737779)

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?

still can point! (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 7 months ago | (#45737783)

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

Good thing it still has it's pointing arm!

Re:still can point! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738315)

Lassie could point. Can a UBR-1 find Timmy in the well?

Robots for the masses (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:Robots for the masses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737875)

The one that will make the most money will be using a single appendage, but it won't be a finger.....

Two arms are better than one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737915)

So...

If I purchase two UBR-1s at $35,000 a piece I can build a two arm robot for $70,000? I'm mean we're only talking a new roll of duct tape at this point.

What happened to the rest of the unobtanium $400,000 price tag?

Is this the new math the kids keep talking about? What am I missing here?

Re:Two arms are better than one (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 7 months ago | (#45738525)

So...

If I purchase two UBR-1s at $35,000 a piece I can build a two arm robot for $70,000? I'm mean we're only talking a new roll of duct tape at this point.

What happened to the rest of the unobtanium $400,000 price tag?

Is this the new math the kids keep talking about? What am I missing here?

They switched to cheap commodity parts for the sensors instead of custom building all the parts. That's the big cost savings.

Two arms vs Two single arms (2)

ardmhacha (192482) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:Two arms vs Two single arms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738291)

weld them together then...

Re: Two arms vs Two single arms (1)

Mabhatter (126906) | about 7 months ago | (#45738403)

It's much easier to network robots at the hardware and programming level than the UP FRONT cost of a robot that can do both.

one arm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45737929)

can still fap

Re:one arm (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 months ago | (#45738465)

can still fap

Did you not see what happened to Wolowitz [youtube.com] ?

Re:one arm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45739093)

lol

Should have been obvious to Willow Garage (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 7 months ago | (#45737939)

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.

My first thought (1)

sootman (158191) | about 7 months ago | (#45737997)

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

Like this guy? [wikia.com]

Video of them talking about UBR-1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738029)

Here is a video of them talking about UBR-1 @ Home Brew Robotics Club. They talk about HOW they got the cost down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM_htDzvvzQ

one arm is all you need for pushing (and/or shovin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738171)

but you need a speaker to request that people stand by the stairs

Re:one arm is all you need for pushing (and/or sho (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45739669)

but you need a speaker to request that people stand by the stairs

That's just terrible.

It used to be expensive... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738177)

...now it's just an arm and a leg.

Is Melonee Wise a tranny? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738259)

(S)he has a sort of guy-ish look.

It's a man, Baby! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45741959)

(S)he has a sort of guy-ish look.

It's a man, Baby! [youtube.com]

Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738275)

Can I get one with a tentacle instead of an arm? /Doc Ock

Wow... (2)

rnturn (11092) | about 7 months ago | (#45738329)

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

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

Reminds me of Armatron (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 7 months ago | (#45738591)

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

Re:Reminds me of Armatron (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#45738817)

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

Re:Reminds me of Armatron (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 7 months ago | (#45739315)

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 safe. This seems a little too safe, like the plastic saw you might give a 3 year old to play with.

Re:Reminds me of Armatron (2)

dbc (135354) | about 7 months ago | (#45739985)

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, large load capacity would translate into larger motors, which translates into larger batteries, which translates into a larger robot, which translates into still larger batteries. Then it starts getting expensive.

The correct literary reference (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 7 months ago | (#45738681)

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

Just don't... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45738769)

Just don't expect it to hang wallpaper.

Awesome! More worthless robots. (1)

Sanians (2738917) | about 7 months ago | (#45738985)

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 thousands of uses, I'd be a lot more impressed if they could give even one real-life example where employing their robots saves a company money and does so in a way where it isn't possible to save much more money simply by hiring workers or using a custom-built machine.

If a custom-built machine can handle those 3 pound objects a thousand times faster, then employing a thousand of those robots to do the same amount of productive work isn't a wise business decision, even if you can still be profitable, as that machine is probably going to cost you far less than $35 million. So using the robots has to not simply be profitable, but has to be at least in the ballpark of how profitable other methods are.

Can it make (1)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 7 months ago | (#45739083)

Can it make the sound of one robot hand clapping?

Bots in data centers (1)

blackanvil (1147329) | about 7 months ago | (#45739655)

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.

It was the one-armed UBR-1! (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#45740533)

The Fugitive would have been very different.

TFA.. it's research and that's all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45741997)

that robots won’t find their way into new niches until they can solve real problems at much lower cost than the expensive, research-oriented, all-purpose robots of the past.

Hold it, industrial robots from ABB, Kuka, and Honda solve real world problems at the fraction of any of these robots and can run for days. Single arm? Just buy a Kuka. Any research-oriented, all-purpose robot of the past has been nothing but a $$$ toy. Trying to "do it right the 1st time" when you don't know how too (PR2 is exhibit 'A'), sort of says "stay in research, keep your day job"....

Heck I use ROS and it's cool nonetheless for research, but no way ready for primetime.

That's great (1)

koan (80826) | about 7 months ago | (#45742075)

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 =)

cf QUR by Anthony Boucher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45742103)

1943, completely prescient!

Um (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 7 months ago | (#45742469)

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.

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