Willow Garage’s PR2 has provided a unique, open source robotics platform to all kinds of labs and institutions that otherwise wouldn’t have access to a complex robotics system--but not to that many. For all the absolutely cool things you can do with PR2, the $400,000 price tag is prohibitive--only about two dozen commercial and academic labs have their own PR2s. So, in an attempt to make their robot more accessible, Willow Garage is introducing the PR2 SE this week, a pared-down version of the same robot costing a mere $285,000.
So how do you cut more than a hundred grand off a $400,000 robot? You start by removing one of its arms. Robot arms are complicated and expensive, and a lot of roboticists have told Willow Garage their research really doesn’t require two arms (unless you’re researching how to bake chocolate chip cookies). Cut off one arm and the price drops dramatically.