Kuka Robot Competition Offers 20,000-Euro Award

German robotics giant Kuka announced last week a competition designed to advance mobile manipulation applications and promote the company's youBot as a platform for robotics research. The Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award is open to researchers from around the world, who are invited to build a new and creative application in the field of mobile manipulation, with the only requisite being that a youBot be part of the system. And the prize? The winner takes all: €20,000 in cash.

Unveiled a few years ago, the Kuka youBot [pictured above] is a versatile mobile robot with open interfaces. It's equipped with omnidirectional wheels, a 5-DOF manipulator arm with a two-finger gripper, and a Mini-ITX PC board. And then there's the software: the youBot runs a version of Ubuntu Linux, and a ROS "wrapper" is available to interface with the robot's systems. The main programming interface is a C++ API, and there are drivers for a variety of sensors, including Kinect. Also available are a host of ready-to-use libraries and applications, as well as simulation models for Gazebo, Webots, V-REP, and Modelica.

If you'd like to know what you can do with the youBot, here's a recent example: the youBots are the robots used by MIT researchers to assemble Ikea furniture. For more demos, take a look at the hackathons organized by Kuka. And if you don't have a youBot, you can still come up with an application and, if Kuka likes your idea, it will loan you a robot at no cost. To select the finalists, and the winner, Kuka put together a panel of judges that includes notable experts from industry and academia and, less notably, yours truly. Judging will be based on originality of the idea, its technological readiness, economic impact, competitive advantage, and other criteria. (Participants retain the intellectual property of their creations.) 

Check out more details below and on the award website. And good luck!

From the announcement:

The KUKA Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award comes with a financial prize of 20,000 €. The award is intended to accelerate the pace of innovation in the field of mobile manipulation at large and to better prepare technology transfers from academia and research to industry.

Applicants for the award have to demonstrate an innovative robotic application or component in the field of mobile manipulation in real operation in a realistic working environment. To ensure equal conditions and a fair and direct comparison, the application or component shall be demonstrated on, or in conjunction with, a KUKA youBot. The KUKA youBot is an open-source software controlled mobile manipulator with an omni-directional base and a five-degree-of-freedom robot arm, which is about to become a reference platform for research and education in mobile manipulation.

Teams, which have an innovative and viable idea, but do not have access to the KUKA youBot mobile manipulation hardware may ask for sponsorship. Deadline for registration for the competition leading to the award is 15.06.2013. Competitors will be evaluated by a jury of renowned experts in mobile manipulation. The selected finalists will present their solutions not only to the jury, but also to KUKA management and to the expert public at the leading international robotics trade show Automatica 2014, where the award ceremony will take place.

Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award ]

Photo: Evan Ackerman

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