Willow Garage Marries Open Source and Robots, with an Eye Toward the Future
For years now, in the field of robotics, open source platforms have been ushering in all kinds of innovation. And among the commercial companies focused on open source robotics, none is as prominent as Silicon Valley-based Willow Garage. Scott Hassan, a Google veteran, founded Willow Garage in 2006 as a well-funded robotics research shop. In addition to building innovative robots and robotics platforms, Willow Garage helped organize the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF).
Recently, the folks at Willow Garage hosted members of the press for a talk on robotics. Some of the predictions made are really worth noting.
Ashlee Vance has a BusinessWeek report out on her time spent with the Willow Garage team discussing Willow Garage PR2 robots, based on the open source ROS platform. She notes:
"Before the dinner, some of the engineers at Willow Garage demonstrated what a PR2 can accomplish in the home—tasks such as placing dirty dishes in the sink and then setting the table with clean dishes. Research is also under way to see if the robot can help people who are paralyzed or suffering from other debilitating conditions. One gentleman, for example, relies on a PR2 to pick up his son’s dirty clothes and to help the gentleman shave."
A similar report from The New York Times focused on Steve Cousins, Willow Garage’s president and chief executive:
"Mr. Cousins said he believed the next wave of robots to enter — or invade — the home and work force would be telepresence robots. These machines have a built-in screen and camera and are essentially mobile video-chatting terminals that can be controlled from thousands of miles away. Soon, Mr. Cousins said, these gadgets will be given more functional bodies, including arms, so they can interact in a physical space."
If you're interested in the field of robotics, Willow Garage's work, and its open source ROS platform are really worth looking in on. You can find out more about open source robotics in general at the foundation's page, and more about Willow Garage here.