As Willow Garage Shifts Course, a Key Robotics Platform Changes Stewardship

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 04, 2013

For many years now, some of the more interesting work in the field of robotics has been driven by open source efforts. Open source robotics platforms have flourished, but they've also been fragmented, with software and hardware designs produced all around the world that have little to do with each other. That's why it was so promising when the folks behind Willow Garage--a robotics project that originated at Stanford University--announced the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF).

The OSRF drives a number of open source robotics initiatives, but in February, news arrived that Willow Garage itself would be changing its course. The company has long driven the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) forward, but is pursuing a number of commercial robotics opportunities. Now, it appears that the OSRF will be driving ROS forward. 

The OSRF has put up a blog post making plas for ROS clear:

"We're working with our friends at Willow Garage to accelerate the transition of ROS stewardship to OSRF. One of the goals in establishing OSRF was to provide a long-term home for ROS, and that's where we're headed with this transition. Through generous support from the National Robotics Initiative, we're assembling a team at OSRF to continue to guide the development of ROS. We don't expect ROS development to slow down, nor do we expect any interruption to the online resources that we've all come to rely on (e.g., the ROS wiki and ROS answers). At OSRF, we look forward to taking a more prominent role in the ROS ecosystem."

At least 25 institutions are developing robotics applications on Willow Garage's ROS, but Willow garage announced the launch of the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) to help foster all kinds of robotics work. It is the right organization to drive ROS forward.

According to the original OSRF announcement:

"The OSRF is an independent, non-profit organization founded by members of the global robotics community. Their mission is to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development. In conjunction with the formation of the OSRF, the Board of Directors was also announced. The Board of Directors comprises a worldwide collection of educators, leaders and visionaries in the field of robotics."

As for Willow Garage, it's shifting its funding model and pursuing commercial opportunities. We expect to hear much more from the talented roboticists from the company.