The Results Are In: PR2 Beta Program Recipients!
With so many great proposals, it seemed a shame to give out only ten robots, so we made it a round eleven.
After reviewing 78 submissions to our PR2 Beta Program Call for Proposals, we are excited to announce that we have selected the eleven recipients of PR2 Beta robots at no cost. We were overwhelmed by the response as well as the high caliber of submissions. There was a strong international presence in the submissions and we have selected three recipients in Europe and one in Asia. We were thrilled to see a wide range of proposed research and application areas, and had a difficult time selecting only ten of the proposals -- even eleven was difficult. Thank you to all who invested time and energy to submit a proposal.
The PR2 Beta Program is a two-year commitment during which the selected institutions will pursue their various research goals and regularly meet to explore new applications together. The PR2 Beta is a robust and capable robot platform with a mobile base, two arms for manipulation, a rich sensor suite, and sixteen CPU cores for computation. The total value of the PR2 Beta Program robots is over $4.4 million.
Each PR2 Beta comes with the free and open source ROS robotics framework that offers full control of the PR2, including autonomous navigation, manipulation, and perception libraries. Participants will build on ROS and share their results with each other more easily. These contributions will also be available to the wider ROS community to adapt to other robot platforms.
The proposed contributions from each of the eleven recipients are too difficult to summarize in just the brief highlights below. All of the selected institutions will release open source libraries for robotics and publish code to accompany research results. The PR2 will provide them with a common hardware platform to exchange results and collaborate in ways not previously anticipated. At this year's ICRA conference, there will be papers demonstrating the PR2 opening doors, plugging in, and folding towels. We're very excited to see what's next.
The University of Freiburg's strength in mapping has led to multiple open-source libraries in wide use. Their group will program the PR2 to do tidy-up tasks like clearing a table, while working on difficult underlying capabilities, like understanding how drawers and refrigerators open, how to recognize different types of objects, and how to integrate this information with the robot's map. Their goal is to detect, grasp, and put away objects with very high reliability, and reproduce these results at other PR2 Beta Program sites.
Bosch will bring their expertise in manufacturing, sensing technologies and consumer products. Bosch will be making robotic sensors available to members of the PR2 Beta Program, including a limited number of "skins" that will give the PR2 the ability to feel its environment. Bosch will also make their PR2 remotely accessible and will expand on the libraries they've released for ROS.
The Healthcare Robotics Lab and collaborators at Georgia Tech will be placing the PR2 in an "Aware Home" to study how robots can help with homecare and creative assistive capabilities for older adults. Their research includes creating easier ways for adults to interact with robots, and enabling robots to interact with everyday objects like drawers, lamps, and light switches. Their human-robot interaction focus will help ensure that the software development is closely connected to real-world needs.
KU Leuven in Belgium is a key player in the open-source robotics community. As one of the founding institutions for the Orocos Project, they will be improving the tools and libraries used to program robots in ROS, by, for example, integrating ROS with Blender. They will also be working on getting the PR2 and people to perform tasks together, like carrying objects through a crowded environment.
The diverse MIT CSAIL group will use the PR2 to study the key capabilities needed by robots that operate in human-centered environments, such as safe navigation, interaction with humans via natural language, object recognition, and planning for complex goals. Their work will allow robots to build the maps they need in order to move around in buildings as large as MIT’s 11-story Stata Center. They will also program the PR2 to put away groceries and do simple cleaning tasks.
PR1 was developed in Kenneth Salisbury's lab at Stanford, and ROS was developed from the STAIR (Stanford AI Robot) Project. We're very excited that the PR2 will become the new platform for the STAIR Project's innovative research. Their team will work on several applications, which include taking inventory, retrieving items scattered about a building, and clearing a table after a meal.
TUM will research giving the PR2 the artificial intelligence skills and 3D perception to reason about what it is doing while it performs various kitchen tasks. These combined improvements will help the PR2 perform more complicated tasks like setting a table, emptying a dishwasher, preparing meals, and other kitchen-related tasks.
The PR2 is now known as the "Towel-Folding Robot", thanks to the impressive efforts of Pieter Abbeel's lab at Berkeley. In two short months, they were able to get the PR2 to fold fifty towels in a row. Berkeley will tackle the much more difficult challenge of doing laundry, from dirty laundry piles to neatly folded clothes. In addition, their team is interested in hierarchical planning, object recognition, and assembly and manufacturing tasks (e.g. IKEA products) through learning by demonstration
The GRASP Lab proposal aims to tackle some of the challenges facing household robotics. These challenges include tracking people and planning for navigation in dynamic environments, and transferring handheld objects between robots and humans. Their contributions will include giving PR2 a tool belt to change its gripper on the fly, helping it track and navigate around people, and performing difficult two-arm tasks like opening spring-loaded doors.
USC has already demonstrated teaching the PR2 basic motor skills so that it can adapt to different situations and tasks, such as pouring a cup. They will continue to expand on this work in imitation learning and building and refining skill libraries, while also doing research in human-robot interaction and self-calibration for sensors.
The JSK Laboratory at the University of Tokyo is one of the top humanoid robotics labs in the world. Their goal is to see robots safely and autonomously perform daily, human-like tasks such as retrieving objects and cleaning up domestic environments. They'll also be working on getting the PR2 to work together with other robots, as well as integrating the ROS, EusLisp, and OpenRAVE frameworks.