Willow Garage Announces New Open Source Robotics Foundation

by Ostatic Staff - May. 10, 2012

For years now, many of the most interesting advancements in robotics have arrived via open source robot platforms and community contributions to them. Among open source robotics efforts, Willow Garage--a project that originated at Stanford University--may be the most famous and accomplished. Robots being developed within it run ROS (Robot Operating System) software, and are surprisingly capable. At least 25 institutions are developing robotics applications on Willow Garage's open platform, and now, Willow garage has announced the launch of the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF). This is likely to be huge news for robot fans.

According to the 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."

Among the luminaries on the OSRF board are:

- Wolfram Burgard, a professor at the University of Freiburg where he leads the Laboratory for Autonomous Intelligent Systems.

- Ryan Gariepy, the co-founder and CTO of Clearpath Robotics. Clearpath Robotics specializes in the design and manufacture of robust and reliable unmanned vehicle solutions for industrial R&D.

- Brian Gerkey, Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage.

- Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot and currently CEO of CyPhyWorks.

- Sam Park, the executive vice president of Yujin Robot. At Yujin Robot he has directed the commercialization of educational and entertainment robots, elderly service robots and home cleaning robots.

That's quite a distinguished board. The first initiative of the OSRF will be participating in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The DARPA Robotics Challenge launches in October of this year and offers a $2 million prize "to whomever can help push the state-of-the-art in robotics beyond today's capabilities in support of the DoD's disaster recovery mission."

"It's always been the intention of Willow Garage to create an independent body that can take our initial work in open source robotics and see it grow beyond the confines of a single organization,"  said Steve Cousins, CEO of Willow Garage, in a statement. "The reality is that the popularity of open source robotics in general, and ROS specifically, has grown beyond our wildest expectations. Willow Garage will enthusiastically support the goals of the OSRF." 

For much more coverage of open source robotics, see OStatic's posts herehere, and here