There are any number of robotics development platforms out there, and we’ve written about most of them TurtleBots, iRobot Creates, and more recently robots like Misty. Generally, these platforms are intended to be used for experimenting with sensors and software, or for more socially-oriented applications that don’t involve much in the way of lifting or moving stuff.
A Silicon Valley startup called Ubiquity Robotics believes that there’s an opportunity here, and they’re crowdfunding a robot called Magni that’s specifically designed to handle large payloads for long durations. It comes with sensing and computing out of the box, and Ubiquity hopes it’ll enable hobbyists to create a new generation of practical robotic solutions.In addition, Ubiquity is offering Loki, a small and more or less affordable learning platform that you can use to develop applications for Magni.
It’s important to note that Magni are not for novice programmers, and they’re probably not for people who are interested in learning about robotics and ROS. There are tutorials for Magni, but they assume that you have a working knowledge of ROS already.
This strikes us as an optimistic vision for a robotic development platform. Not that there’s anything wrong with optimism, but as we mentioned above, people have been making development platforms for years, and they’ve remained a niche product, mostly used by researchers or hobbyists.
Ubiquity believes that there’s a market out there of people who want to do practical things with robots, but who are restricted more by platform availability than anything else. It’s certainly true that most mobile bases that can handle large payloads tend to be on the expensive side, but it remains to be seen whether there’s enough demand out there to sustain even relatively low volume production of a robot like Magni.
Ubiquity is crowdfunding the version of Magni that most people probably want for US $1,000, not including a 3D vision system, meaning that they’ll probably need to sell between one and two hundred Magnis (of varying specs) to reach their fixed goal of $200k.