May 18, 2012
TurtleBot Will Carry Everything You Don’t Want To
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
Imagine this: You're throwing a social event at your house, and suddenly, your guests look over and notice drinks being carried over to them via robot. No this pipe dream isn't from Rocky IV, but it could become your hosting reality with the new TurtleBot.The TurtleBot is like a robotic table that can be programmed to move around a house or an office.
The robot is available for about $1,500, and comes with everything you need to get it actively performing its duties.
The bot comes equipped with an Asus EeePC, iRobot Create Robot, Microsoft Kinect, and plenty of counter space.
One booth operator for Willow Garage, the creator of the TurtleBot, told me at the 2012 International Conference on Robotics and Automation that one office uses the TurtleBot to deliver mail to co-workers.
He also said the robot can be used in collaboration with other robots. In one scenario, he described a situation where a robot could be getting drinks out of the refrigerator, placing them on the TurtleBot for delivery.
The Microsoft Kinect on the device helps it understand its environment so that it can map out its environment and keep itself from bumping into walls, or people. Software to map out these environments is available for free.
Also, those really into robotics could use TurtleBot to interface with a low-cost 4-DOF hobby manipulator to perform autonomous manipulation tasks.
Although the bot is designed for research labs, it can still have applications in the work or home environment, and its low cost makes it a perfect candidate for consumers.
Other projects by Willow Garage include the PR2, which can cost anywhere between $200,000 to $400,000. These robots have arms, and are able to map movements of objects, and grab them while they are in motion. However, most probably do not have the extra $400,000 to make a PR2 robot sort their laundry.
So maybe the butler robot is still a long way away from becoming affordable, but the TurtleBot makes a nice alternative to those willing to fork-out $1,500 for a moving-autonomous drink carrier. You could even consider getting one to help bring you the remote, although you'd need an arm attachment to help pick it up out of the couch cushions.