Willow Garage’s TurtleBot Brings Mobile 3D Mapping and ROS to Your Budget

Recognizing that not everyone can afford to drop $400k on a PR2, Willow Garage has created a much more affordable, but still capable, ROS development platform

2 min read
Willow Garage’s TurtleBot Brings Mobile 3D Mapping and ROS to Your Budget

Just a year or two ago, if you’d wanted to buy yourself a mobile robot base with an on-board computer and 3D vision system, you’d probably have been looking at mid-four to five figures. But today is the future, baby, and Willow Garage is introducing TurtleBot, an eminently hackable pre-configured platform designed to give mobility to a Kinect sensor on the cheap.

TurtleBot consists of an already sensored iRobot Create base, a 3000 mAh battery pack, a gyro, a Kinect sensor, an Asus 1215N laptop with a dual core processor to run everything, and a mounting structure for you to get creative with. TurtleBot runs ROS, of course, and will come with everything preconfigured so that the robot can make maps, navigate, and follow you around straight out of the box.

I know I’ve beaten this to death with respect to Willow Garage and ROS before, but remember that the whole point (or much of the point) of this kind of open source hardware and software is to keep hard working roboticists like you from having to start from scratch every time you want to invent something. Like, why waste your time and money designing and constructing a mobile robot with a 3D sensor and then waste more time teaching it to navigate, when it’s all already been done a thousand times before? Where’s the progress, man? See, now you have time to move on to more interesting things, like getting your robot to do cool stuff, which is the whole point of robots in the first place.

So, what can you do with TurtleBot? Well, it can bring you food, explore your house on its own, bring you food, build 3D pictures, bring you food, take panoramas, bring you drinks, bring you food, and more. Check it out:

If this platform looks vaguely familiar, that’s because it is... Bilibot is the same basic idea: a cheap, effective platform for developing applications for Kinect using ROS. Both of these platforms were developed in parallel, though, and they’re both after the same thing (more accessibility), so don’t worry, there’s nothing shady going on here. Willow Garage expects both robots to be able to collaborate on hardware and software while still maintaining their individuality.

TurtleBot will be available for pre-order later this week. The core kit is $500, which includes:

  • USB Communications Cable
  • TurtleBot Power and Sensor Board
  • TurtleBot Hardware
  • Microsoft Kinect
  • TurtleBot to Kinect Power Cable
  • USB Stick TurtleBot Installer

The complete TurtleBot (which is what’s in the pictures and video) is $1200, and adds the following to the core kit:

  • iRobot Create Robot
  • 3000 mAh Ni-MH Battery
  • Fast Charger
  • Asus EeePc 1215N

The reason that they’re doing it this way is to make it as cheap as possible for you to put this kit together yourself, if (say) you have your own laptop already, or even your own iRobot Create. For reference, an iRobot Create with a battery is about $200 from iRobot, and an Asus 1215N is about $500.

Turtle costume sold separately.

[ TurtleBot ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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