CkBot Modules used to create PR2 copy

Something very significant happened, when Nick Eckenstein and
Matt Piccoli in ModLab, led by professor Mark Yim, made a copy of Willow
Garage’s PR2 using 3 types and a total of 22 CkBot units. This is a very
substantial step towards a universal machine.

The development time was reported as less then a month on half time
as this was not the only project Nick and Matt was working on at the
time, and this can safely be said to be just a small fraction of what I
presume is the development time for the PR2. And even more
impressive is the actual assembly time of the mini-PR2 it was all
done in 2 or 3 hours. Matt says “That’s one of the many beautiful
things about modular robots” and I can only agree!

The actual assembly time of the mini-PR2 was short, it was all done in 2 or 3 hours.
“That’s one of the many beautiful things about modular robots”
                                                                                                                                                        Matt Piccoli

One very impressive thing is that you can replicate an expensive
robot in a much cheaper way. The PR2 cost a bit more than $400.000,
whereas the units comprising the copy reportedly cost less $5000.
And the $5000 price is not really comparable to the PR2 anyway.
It only would be comparable if you kept the units assembled in this
particular way all the time, forever, which you are unlikely to do.
If you buy the units for $5000 you can actually assemble a great
variety of robots and solutions as opposed to a conventional robot
where you pay for and only get one type of robot.
So in all practical cases the price for having a CkBot copy of the
PR2 for a few days/weeks/months whenever you like to have one,
would be much cheaper then $5000. Maybe closer to $50 rather
than $5000, and that is cool. And that is still the price you get
when the modules are build by hand and are not yet optimized
for low cost ease of production so I presume there is much room
for price reduction when modules are made industrially, then we
might be looking at $5 or even $0.50, which would be game changing.
As an added benefit, the copy has all the other great features of
a modular robot, one being robustness. Because the copy only used three
different types of units, keeping a few spare units on hand would not be that
expensive. And If you needed to order more, they are/will be a standard
component which would be easier to get then a special component for a
specific robot.

The concept of a general, universal machine that can simulate any
imaginable physical machine or structure is a very powerful concept.
I think it is safe to say that the impact of a universal (physical)
machine will be at least as great as that we have seen coming
from the Universal Computing Machine, and they have been
astounding to say the least.

I think that this is a fantastic development and it is one of the
things that make me believe that many great things will come
from the SRCMR community in the future!

For more information please visit the home of the CkBot
Modular Robotics Lab (ModLab) http://modlabupenn.org/

Just so that nobody gets the wrong picture here, I would just
like to say that I am a great fan of Willow Garage and the PR2.
I think that they are doing great work and that the PR2 is a
great robot, and I do not only say that because it can get me
a beer! But it can also do my laundry and play pool with me!
An all around nice dude, that just happens to be a robot,
Benders ancestor basically 🙂

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