Earlier this year we reported how Californian robotics company Willow Garage was giving away a number of its PR2 robots to various institutions as part of its PR2 Beta program. Lucky PR2 recipients were asked to use the robot to pursue their research and development goals and share their progress with the open source robotics community so that the community as a whole can build on each other’s results. Now anyone can get in the act with Willow Garage officially announcing commercial availability of the robot. And if you’ve got a proven track record in the open source community you could be eligible for a hefty discount.

PR2 – short for Personal Robot 2 – is roughly the size of a person and consists of a mobile base sitting upon four steered and driven casters, torso, head, two arms, an array of sensors and sixteen cores for computation. The torso moves up and down relative to the base, to give PR2 a height ranging from 1.33m (4-ft 4.4-in) to 1.645m (5-ft 4.7-in). The arms attached to the torso have seven degrees of freedom (dof) and the forearm contains a 640x480 color camera that can always see the grippers. The grippers consist of a central palm with four articulating fingers. The grippers also contain a 3-dof accelerometer and an LED, which can be turned on and off to assist in calibration or finding the location of the gripper in camera images. The pan-tilt head contains wide and narrow stereo cameras, a 5-megapixel camera, a texture projector and a Hokuyo laser range-finder.

The PR2 runs on software based on the Robot Operating System (ROS), which has two basic “sides”. The operating system side, which is released under the terms of the BSD license, provides basic planning, perception and control capabilities, along with a set of analysis, visualization and debugging tools, while ROS-PKG side is a suite of user contributed packages (organized into sets called stacks), which are licensed under a variety of open source licenses and implement additional functionality such as simultaneous localization and mapping, planning, perception and simulation.

Because PR2 is designed as a robotics research and development platform don’t expect to have the robot helping with the household chores right out of the box. But with a bit of work you could have a PR2 doing all sots of things. Already the folks at Willow garage have PR2 carrying out a variety of tasks at the office including fetching a beer from the fridge, cleaning up used coffee cups and bottles and wheeling them back to the kitchen in a cart. When it’s finished these tasks and is looking for a way to wind down it can even play a game of pool - check out the video below to see PR2's style with a stick.

Naturally, such cutting edge technology doesn’t come cheap. Your very own PR2 will set you back US$400,000. But in the interests of furthering the development of the platform Willow Garage is offering substantial discounts amounting to $120,000 to individuals with a successful track record in the open source community. You can check place an order for a PR2 and check out the eligibility criteria for the discount at the Willow Garage website.

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