Willow Garage launches PR2 Robot Beta Program

I remember back in 2007/2008 time frame when I visited Willow Garage for the first time.  The CEO explained the company’s vision about changing the world with robots and an open-source robotics operating system (ROS).  They didn’t have one working robot at the time, nada.  Now flash forward to today, they just launched the PR2 robot beta program, giving away 11 robots to (mostly) universities and (some) companies.  Beta participants must commit to contributing to ROS over a span of two years.  The cost of the robots is over $4.4M.  Note to self, changing the world is not cheap.  Most of the proposed projects are focused on getting robots to perform general day-to-day activities such as opening/closing drawers, maneuvering a crowded place, carrying objects, and so forth.

The potential of ROS is promising.  It could do what computer operating systems help do for computer applications.  Computer operating systems eliminate (mostly) the need to write low-level code (e.g., based on a common platform) and help people focus on creating value-add applications.  When Windows came out, a whole slew of applications came out of the woodwork.  Imagine if all the robotics folks used a common platform like ROS.  Maybe we would see more innovation coming from the robotics space.  I don’t know, something to think about.

If you haven’t already, check out a PR2 folding a towel.

[Updated 5/17/2010] Also, check out Google Founder Sergey Brin using Texai.

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