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Mobile robot app competition offers $25,000 prize

May 16, 2013 — by Eric Brown 4,242 views

Kuka announced a 20,000 Euro Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award for innovative mobile manipulation applications using its Kuka YouBot service robot. The open source Kuka YouBot is equipped with omnidirectional wheels and one or two 5-DOF manipulator arms, and runs Ubuntu Linux and ROS (Robot Operating System) on an Intel Atom-based Mini-ITX board.

The Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award seeks to identify and reward the most innovative mobile manipulation application or component based on the Kuka YouBot. Teams can apply for a sponsorship to help purchase the robot, which ranges from about 24,000 Euros to over 40,000 Euros for a fully loaded system. The deadline for applications is June 6, and the top prize is 20,000 Euros ($25,737).

Kuka YouBot is available in several configurations
(click images to enlarge)

The Kuka YouBot was unveiled by German robotics manufacturer Kuka in 2010, with volume shipments beginning in 2011. Aimed primarily at research and education, the robot features a platform with four omnidirectional wheels, as well as one or two five degree of freedom (5-DOF) arms with grippers.


The Kuka YouBot’s steel-constructed, wheeled platform travels at up to 0.8 m/s. It measures 22.8 x 15.0 x 5.5 inches, and each magnesium cast arm is 25.8 inches tall. A platform with one arm would weigh about 58 pounds (26.3 kilograms). This is small and light enough to roam around on a desktop, says Kuka.

The platform integrates a mini-ITX board featuring a dual-core Intel Atom processor, 2GB RAM, a 32GB solid state drive (SSD), and a USB port. The platform and arm communicate via an EtherCAT interface.

Each 5-DOF arm offers movement ranges of between 65° and 169°, depending on the axis, all capable of moving at speeds of 90° per second, says Kuka. Each arm can carry a half a kilogram payload using its detachable, two-finger grippers. Attachments for either the platform or arm include sensors, range finders, and 2D and 3D cameras, including a Microsoft Kinect attachment. A Logitech remote control gamepad is available, as well as a choice of two Android remote control apps.

Specifications for the Kuka YouBot include:

  • Mini-ITX SBC:
    • Processor — Intel Atom dual-core processor
    • Memory — 2GB RAM; 32GB SSD
    • I/O — USB port
    • OS/software — Ubuntu Linux 10.04 or 12.04 with ROS Electric or ROS Fuerte, respectively; ROS; BRIDE; BROCRE; sample apps
  • Platform:
    • Wheels — 4x Kuka OmniWheels
    • Dimensions — 580 x 380 x 140mm (22.8 x 15.0 x 5.5 in.)
    • Weight — 20 k
    • Payload — 20 k
    • Speed — 0.8 m/s
    • Interface — EtherCAT
    • Power — 24V DC; 200W supply; batteries with 90-minute average life
  • Arm(s):
    • Height — 655mm (25.8 in.)
    • Weight — 6.3 k
    • Payload — 0.5 k
    • Serial kinetics — 5 axes with range between 65° and 169° (90° /s speed)
    • Work envelope — 0.513 m3
    • Positioning repeatability — 1mm
    • Gripper — detachable, 2-finger, 20mm stroke, 70mm range
    • Interface — EtherCAT
    • Power — 24V DC; drive train limitable to 80W

The Kuka YouBot runs one of two modified versions of Ubuntu Linux equipped with Willow Garage’s open source Robot Operating System (ROS) middleware “wrapper” extensions. Hobbyist, educational, and industrial robots are increasingly migrating from RTOSes to a combination of Linux and ROS.

Customers can choose between a distribution that includes Ubuntu 10.04 and ROS Electric, or a version with Ubuntu 12.04 and the more recent ROS Fuerte build. Both versions include all necessary drivers and applications, and offer open interfaces for position, velocity, and current control. They can be used as bootable live media on the robot or a PC.

The distribution ships with a C++ API plus drivers for sensor and camera add-ons, and various libraries and sample apps. Simulation models are available for Gazebo, Webots, V-REP, and Modelica.

Also available is the Eclipse-based BRIDE (BRICS Integrated Development Environment) and BROCRE (BRICS Open Code Repository) from the European BRICS embedded and robotics project. In addition to supporting BRICS, Kuka is also a member of the Open Source Automation Development Lab (OSADL).

IkeaBot — a robot furniture assembly system

The video below showcases a project from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, in which Kuka YouBots autonomously assemble an Ikea table in a collaborative manner. Enjoy!


Further details

The deadline for applications for the Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award is June 6. Selected finalists will present their solutions to a Kuka jury, Kuka management, and the public at the Automatica 2014 robotics show in Munich on May 20-23, 2014.

Pricing for the Kuka YouBot starts at 23,990 Euros ($30,861) with one arm to 38,990 Euros ($50,157) with two arms, plus extra-cost options. More information may be found at the Kuka YouBot store.

(advertise here)

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