Robotnik Enters Mobile Manipulator Market With RB-1

Now is an excellent time to be in the market for a mobile manipulator

2 min read
Robotnik Enters Mobile Manipulator Market With RB-1
A computer-generated image of the RB-1.
Image: Robotnik

It’s a good time to be in the market for a mobile manipulator. After recent announcements by both PAL Robotics and Fetch Robotics, Spanish company Robotnik has stepped up with their take on an affordable robot that can move around and actually, you know, do things for you: RB-1.

Once again, we want to mention up front that any resemblance that the RB-1 might have to other mobile manipulators is likely just because they are designed around a set of capabilities that they all have in common, leading to unavoidable similarities in appearance. The RB-1 looks kind of like Tiago, which looks kind of like Fetch, which looks kind of like UBR-1, which looks kind of like Platformbot, which looks kind of like Toyota’s Partner robot, which itself (and we unforgivably neglected to mention this before) is based on one of the greatest mobile manipulators of them all, Georgia Tech’s EL-E.

So, let’s have a look at RB-1. What’s unique about it is that it’s built mainly using Dynamixel Pro servos: they’re powering the 7-DoF arm, the gripper, and the pan-and-tilt head. The torso also elevates nearly 40 centimeters. The arm has a total reach of 70 centimeters (enough to pick stuff up off the floor), and it can lift 2 kilograms. RB-1 has a 3.5 hour battery life, but I can’t tell if it comes with a dock or not.

In terms of sensors, there’s an Asus Xtion RGBD in the head, and a Hokuyo laser in the base, which is a pretty standard setup for mobile manipulators. Powering all of this is an Intel Core i7 with 8 GB of RAM and a 200 GB of disk, running Linux and ROS.

Robotnik’s website doesn’t seem to be updated to reflect the new robot yet, but the spec sheet we have puts the price at €46,200 (about US $52,000). We’ve contacted the company for more images and videos, and we’ll let you know if we hear back.

[ Robotnik ]

Thanks ROS News!

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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.

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“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.

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

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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