AI News, Willow Garage Giving Away 11 PR2 Robots Worth Over $4 Million

Willow Garage Giving Away 11 PR2 Robots Worth Over $4 Million

Willow Garage, the Silicon Valley company dedicated to advancing open robotics, is announcing this morning that it will award 11 PR2 robots to institutions and universities around the world as part of its efforts to speed-up research and development in personal robotics.

The company, in Menlo Park, Calif., hopes that the 11 organizations [see list below] in the United States, Europe, and Japan that are receiving PR2 robots at no cost—a total worth over US $4 million—will use the robots to explore new applications and contribute back to the open-source robotics community.

An open robot platform design and built by Willow, the Personal Robot 2, or PR2, has a mobile base, two arms, a variety of sensors, and 16 CPU cores for computation.

With its PR2 Beta Program, Willow Garage hopes to foster scientific robotics research, promote the development of new tools to improve the PR2 and other robots, and also help researchers create practical demonstrations and applications of personal robotics.

For the researchers receiving a state-of-the-art personal robot platform worth several hundred thousand dollars, the possibility of working on real-world problems without having to waste time reinventing the robotic wheel, so to speak, is a big deal.

Even more significant, the researchers will be able to 'share their software for use by other groups and build on top of each other's work,' says Pieter Abbeel, the UC Berkeley professor who created the towel folding demo and is one of the PR2 recipients.

'Just as the Mac and PC hardware inspired new applications for personal computers in the 1980s, the PR2 could be the key step in making personal robots a reality,'says Ken Goldberg, an IEEE Fellow and UC Berkeley professor.

The company hopes advances in personal robotics could have an impact in a wide range of industries, including retail, health care, home care, automotive, and manufacturing.

In selecting the 11 PR2 recipients, Berger said they wanted diversity in terms of applications, but at the same time they focused on those that could make the best use of PR2's mobility and manipulation capabilities.

Their group will program the PR2 to do tidy-up tasks like clearing a table, while working on difficult underlying capabilities, like understanding how drawers and refrigerators open, how to recognize different types of objects, and how to integrate this information with the robot's map.

Their research includes creating easier ways for adults to interact with robots, and enabling robots to interact with everyday objects like drawers, lamps, and light switches.

MIT CSAIL with the proposal Mobile Manipulation in Human-Centered Environments The diverse MIT CSAIL group will use the PR2 to study the key capabilities needed by robots that operate in human-centered environments, such as safe navigation, interaction with humans via natural language, object recognition, and planning for complex goals.

Their contributions will include giving PR2 a tool belt to change its gripper on the fly, helping it track and navigate around people, and performing difficult two-arm tasks like opening spring-loaded doors.

They will continue to expand on this work in imitation learning and building and refining skill libraries, while also doing research in human-robot interaction and self-calibration for sensors.

KULeuven: Unified framework for task specification, control and coordination for mobile manipulation

Koen Buys of KULeuven presents their proposal for the PR2 Beta Program.

Synthesizing Manipulation Sequences for Under-Specified Tasks using Unrolled Markov Random Fields

For more details: Many tasks in human environments require performing a sequence of navigation and manipulation steps involving objects. In..

Tactile Servoing

The advent of sensor arrays providing tactile feedback with high spatial and temporal resolution asks for new control strategies to exploit this important and valuable sensory channel for grasping...

Physics-based Manipulation with and Around People

Robots manipulate with super-human speed and dexterity on factory floors. But yet they fail even under moderate amounts of clutter or uncertainty. However, human teleoperators perform remarkable...

Bay Area Vision Meeting: Learning Representations for Real-world Recognition

Bay Area Vision Meeting (more info below) Learning Representations for Real-world Recognition Trevor Darrell March 7, 2011 ABSTRACT Methods for visual recognition had made dramatic...