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13 February 2013, 12:23

Robot Operating System heading to foundation

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ROS, the open source Robot Operating System created by Willow Garage, is now in the process of moving under the governance and ownership of the Open Source Robotics Foundation. The move comes after Willow Garage, which also manufactures the PR2 robot, announced it was pivoting into a "self-sustaining company" and looking for commercial opportunities.

The company was responding to a reports in IEEE Spectrum that it was closing down. In the statement, Willow garage said that "ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices." Willow Garage pointed out it was not the only supporter of ROS and that its other supporters included the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), founded in May 2012 by Willow Garage, and ROS contributors in both academic and industrial communities.

OSRF released a statement too, thanking the Willow Garage team for their contributions. It added that it was working with them to "accelerate the transition of ROS stewardship to OSRF," as providing a stable home for ROS was one of its founding goals. Support from the National Robotics Initiative is enabling the OSRF to hire a team to "continue to guide the development of ROS".

The OSRF says it doesn't expect ROS development to slow down or for any interruption to occur to the ROS wiki or ROS Answers sites (though at the time of writing did appear to be down). The most recent release of the BSD-licensed ROS is ROS Groovy, released in December 2012.

Willow Garage was founded in 2006 by Scott Hassan, co-designer of Google's search engine, as a robotics research lab and technology incubator. Spin-offs from the company have included OpenCV, the open source computer vision software, robotic arm maker Redwood Robotics, and Suitable Technologies commercial remote presence robot. The company has sold, or given to research labs, around 50 PR2 robots, valued at around $400,000 each. What Willow Garage's commercial plans will be is unclear at this time.


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