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Bilibot Brings an Arm to the Affordable ROS Platform Party

Looks like all you budding ROS developers now have a tough choice to make: the Willow Garage TurtleBot, or the armed and dangerous Bilibot?

2 min read
Bilibot Brings an Arm to the Affordable ROS Platform Party

Hot on the heels of Willow Garage’s TurtleBot announcement comes news of the commercial availability of Garratt Gallagher’s Bilibot ROS development platform that we heard about back in February. We’ve got some details on the final specs, which include:

  • An iRobot Create

  • A Kinect, modified to run off of a battery

  • All the mounting hardware, wiring and electronics needed to put it all together

  • A fairly beastly computer with a 3.1 GHz Intel i3 processor and 4 gigs of RAM

  • Ubuntu and ROS pre-installed

The biggest news is, as you may have noticed from the picture, the addition of a functional, powered arm (!). It has a one foot reach, and thanks to the inclusion of some actual geared motors (not servos), it can lift three pounds 17" into the air. Just imagine the possibilities...

Well, okay, so you’ll have to imagine some possibilities besides grapes, but three pounds is an awful lot for such a little bot.

Now, you might think that TurtleBot and Bilibot are poised to duke it out in the affordable ROS platform arena, and while I for one would pay to see that actually happen, that’s not the way it’s going down. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t really a competition between the two robots, since ultimately, the goal is to make ROS and a physical, hackable ROS platform easily available to anyone who wants one to mess with. You can think of TurtleBot and Bilibot as different flavors of the same concept, and Garratt and Willow Garage have even been collaborating on some of the common software.

If you just can’t wait another second, you can order an armed Bilibot right now for $1,200, which includes your choice of five colors plus custom engraving. This first batch is being more or less hand-built, so some bulk discounts will hopefully be appearing in the near future that might help bring that price down a bit. Either way, I’d say it’s a pretty sweet deal, and we’re all looking forward to seeing what’s possible when clever people start doing clever things with this robot.

[ Bilibot Developer Edition ]

Thanks to Travis over at Hizook for the tip!

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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