October 23, 2019
Botnuvo announced last week that they have decloaked and that they are launching a new autonomous mobile robot platform targeted at researchers, educators, and developers. Botnuvo will demonstrate their new Velocity mobile robot platform at ROSCon 2019 in Macau China on October 31-November 1, 2019.
The company is founded by Mike Ferguson. Prior to launching Botnuvo, Mike was the CTO for Fetch Robotics, and prior to that his pedigree includes time with Willow Garage. Mike is also one of the official maintainers of the ROS navigation stack. At Fetch, Mike was directly responsible for the evolution of the Fetch platform and their initial foray into the mobile robotic research platform marketplace.
Our editor had the chance to sit down this week and talk to Mike about his vision for the company and the opportunity which he sees in the market place for the Botnuvo solution. Mike is preparing to travel to Macau China next week to launch the company and the new product at ROScon 2019.
Botnuvo Velocity mobile robot platform (image courtesy of Botnuvo)
A new generation of research platform
After his time at Fetch, Ferguson took some time off to consider what his next adventure would be. His passion for ROS, along with his deep understanding of the research robotics market led him back to his roots in robotics research. “There are currently only a limited number of options for university research labs when it comes to affordable and reliable mobile robot platforms for their labs”, said Ferguson. “There are a number of venture-backed robotics companies that also sell research platforms, but they always have to keep their focus on higher growth markets. Other solutions on the market offer poorly made machines which don’t last long in a research lab environment”
MobileRobots was, at one time, the premier research platform supplier. MobileRobots was acquired by Adept Technology in the early 2000’s and leveraged by Adept to build their Lynx industrial mobile robot business. The acquisition of Adept by OMRON and the subsequent divestiture of the research robot marketplace by OMRON has left a hole in the market for reliable solutions.
From this market opportunity, Botnuvo was conceived
Ferguson’s vision for Botnuvo is to produce an affordable and reliable solution. The mobile robot is ready to run, right out of the box. Ferguson understands the needs of university computer science professors who “don’t want their students taking a screwdriver to their $5000 robot”. Nor do they want to waste time struggling to get a new platform to be functional, just so a coding or research project can begin. The Velocity mobile robot was designed to fill this need, at an affordable price point.
Botnuvo delivers a turnkey platform which fully supports ROS. Researchers will have open source access to the deepest levels of robot control, with the exception of the motor control firmware and power distribution. Researchers will be able to reprogram PID controls for the robot motors as well as have access to develop new navigation and sensing algorithms on top of ROS. The robot ships with ROS1 installed and the Botnuvo team is actively working to support ROS2.
Botnuvo is taking orders for the platform, and will begin shipping by the end of 2019. The robot ships with a fully assembled and tested robot, a battery, a joystick, and a charging brick. All of the robot specs are available on the Botnuvo website.
There are two models currently available. The key difference between the models is in price and in the LIDAR which is configured on the robot. The base model Velocity robot is configured with a Hokuyo URG, 4 meter laser. This inexpensive laser will work fine for small labs and classroom environments. The Velocity+ robot is configured with a SICK TIM571, 25 meter laser and more onboard memory storage. Customers who want to run the robot across a larger facility will want to purchase the Velocity+. Both models include an Intel NUC embedded PC for all of the supervisory function on the robot. Additional cameras and sensors can be easily added to the platform and interfaces with the onboard controller.
The platform is made mostly from commercial off the shelf components, with the exception of the power distribution and motor control boards. The chassis is constructed from half inch thick HDPE plastic, rather than having a metal chassis. Ferguson made this design choice initially because of the lower costs with smaller production runs. In addition, a plastic body makes it easier to modify the robot for payload attachments. It’s much simpler to drill holes into the plastic robot deck than in a metal deck. In addition, the plastic deck is easily replaced to create a new platform for the next research project.
The Velocity platform is a well thought out solution for a market where there is currently little competition. Botnuvo should do well with this product introduction.
For more information:
Contact Michael Ferguson, firstname.lastname@example.org
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