Myself and several colleagues are anxiously following the creation of Willow Garage's PR2 mobile manipulation robot. By looking at the progress on WG's blog, it appears they're well on their way to functioning units by early next year; they already have some bases, spines, heads, and even an arm up and running -- read on to see more images from the PR2 "alpha" prototypes. One interesting aspect of Willow Garage is that their "Robot Operating System" (ROS), being developed by the Player-Stage founder Brian Gerkey, is entirely open source and run on (among others) Ubuntu Linux! You may also recall that Keenan Wyrobek and Eric Berger (formerly at Stanford, now both at Willow Garage) had a hand in the PR1 robot, with impressive videos of the robot cleaning up rooms, fetching beer, and unloading a dishwasher (see videos below).
I actually think the base is rather curious. The design uses powered-casters, each requiring three motors (I think), to achieve holonomic motion. I'm really curious to see how this design compares to the Swedish "Mecanum" design (such as discussed here) in terms of performance, complexity, control, and power consumption. Anyway, you can see pictures of a caster (left) and the base, spine, and head prototype (right) below.
Here are a few closeups of the pan/tilt head with stereo camera and what appears to be a tilting mechanism with newer Hokuyo laser range finder.
More recently, they have integrated some of the arm prototypes (forearms shown below) onto one of the base, spine, head units, as shown.
For those who may not remember, Keenan Wyrobek and Eric Berger (formerly at Stanford, now both at Willow Garage) were also the developers of the PR1 robot, shown below.
There were a number of videos showing the PR1 performing "everyday" tasks, such as: clearing a table, feeding a person, unloading a dishwasher, delivering a beer, and picking up a living room. I've still never received a satisfactory response regarding how autonomous the robot was while performing these tasks (versus teleoperated), so I'd love for someone to chime in! Videos of the PR1 are shown below.
These videos are originally from the Stanford Personal Robotics Program website.