The uBot-5 is a small and lightweight research platform for mobile manipulation tasks. The robot’s designers focused on developing an economical robot that is highly capable, durable, and safe to operate. It can be equipped with an LCD touch-screen monitor and a webcam, making it suitable for remote applications, such as video-conferencing. Furthermore, the remote operator can use the uBot-5's manipulation capabilities to perform a variety of useful tasks.
In order to achieve both stability and dynamism, the robot is equipped with two wheels in a differential drive configuration. Dynamically stable robots are well suited to environments designed for humans, where both a high center of mass and a small footprint are often required. Since the uBot-5's structure is similar to an inverted pendulum, it is easier to actively stabilize the robot as the center of mass becomes taller. Thanks to the robot’s dynamically stable configuration, whole body postural control can be employed so that it has greater pushing and pulling forces than are possible on an equivalent statically stable platform.
The new robot is a complete redesign of its predecessor, the uBot-4. The newer platform features upgraded processors, an improved power-to-weight ratio, longer running batteries, and additional space for sensor or processor expansion. The whole uBot family consists of the uBot-4, uBot-3, uBot-2, uBot-1, and uBot-5 models.
The original platform of the robot, the uBot-0.5, was known as Oscar – like the character from Sesame Street who lives in a garbage can, because it was constructed from spare parts and lab junk. Oscar had a rotating sonar, a pyroelectric mastactuated by an R/C servo, and differential steering, which was powered by more R/C servos. The MIT Handyboard provided the computation and hand-made position encoders stationed on each wheel maintained odometry.
TFOT recently covered the ATHLETE, a six-legged robot which is capable of traversing terrains of different kinds, and the WizKid, a part computer, part robot 'kid' with a desire to learn. Other related TFOT stories are the Kitchen-Cleaning Robot and the development of Robotic Rats that will aid in rescue missions.
Check out this video of the uBot-5 throwing a baseball. For more information on the uBot, see the University of Massachusetts website.