Do Open Source Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?
We don't yet have robots quite as advanced as Star Wars' C3PO or some of the robots seen in the sci-fi flick Blade Runner, but did you know that there is an open source effort underway to produce them? Well, sort of. RobotCub is a site that houses an open source software repository and many other resources that open source developers are using to advance a humanoid baby robot, dubbed iCub. The project is funded by the EU, and developers all across Europe are working on their versions of baby C3PO.
The iCub, unlike many less advanced robots, is capable of learning from experience. It looks like a metallic, 2-year old child as seen here, and it has sensors in its hands, eyes and elsewhere that help it navigate its surroundings. "Our main goal is to study cognition through the implementation of a humanoid robot," say the researchers behind RobotCub.
The effort to develop many versions of iCub includes open source access to the hardware design for iCub, free and open source software for imbuing iCub with skills, an open source version of iCub's underlying software platform, and a wiki with documentation.
In an online gallery, you can watch movies and see pictures of iCub drumming (he's no John Bonham, but he can stick to a beat), crawling, working out in a gym, and more. The iCub project is also about to see some upgrades that will allow iCub to perform various decision-making tasks, such as placing shapes in holes appropriate for their sizes.
There are many other open source robotics components and software applications being developed around the world. In all likelihood, iCub will inherit many more advanced features than it has now from open sourcers as time passes. Who says you can't become the star roboticist of the future?