Samsung Snags Willow Garage's PR2 Robot

Samsung already sells many of the personal electronics that surround us in our daily lives; now the company may be getting serious about personal robotics. The Korean electronics giant is among the first four customers for Silicon Valley startup Willow Garage's PR2: a human-sized, two-armed wheeled robot that is intended for academic and industrial robotics research.

Samsung is the only major electronics company to purchase the $400,000 robot, which features forearm cameras, gripper tip sensors, LIDAR, Dual radio WiFi, two onboard Xeon servers, and an EtherCAT motion control network. Other PR2 customers include the CNRS Laboratory of Analysis and Architecture of Systems (LAAS-CNRS) in France, George Washington University, and the University of Washington.  

It's safe to say that Samsung is using the PR2 for personal robotics research--that's what the PR2 is designed for (the bot runs on the open-source ROS operating system). LAAS-CNRS plans to use the robot to conduct research on robotic housekeeping assistance for seniors, for example, and George Washington University hopes that PR2 can help uncover ways to use robots to perform autonomous occupational tasks. 

Perhaps Samsung will follow in Toyota's footsteps and work on robotic nurses for the elderly. Or maybe the company will go for mass appeal and build a beer-fetching bot--or an improvement on its Navibot robot vacuum.. Either way, the company's investment in PR2 means that Samsung has at least vague plans to bring robots into our living rooms.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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