Thanks, Ann. Interesting developments. I know that Adept has been doing more in the area of mobile robotics with an acquisition in the last year or so. It will be interesting to see the direction this type of effort takes and what applications become more the area of focus.
naperlou, this initiative is in its early stages, so it's too soon to tell what will happen with support. I think ttext's point is well taken. In addition, the industrial robot companies are huge and have been developing their own software internally for a long time, so their support needs, assuming they are interested in open source, may be quite different from those of individual hobbyist developers. An open source model for the same basic software platform--ROS--is also being pursued in universities for the Raven II surgical robot. Whether or not a ROS-Surgical comes out of that university research will be interesting to see.
Beth, it's much too soon to know, since this initiative has just begun, and so far, I think there are two industrial robot companies that have shown interest. Industrial robotics seems to be dominated by three or four large companies, all with their own proprietary hardware and software. I'm not at all clear about how this would benefit them. However, we've had discussions in several other comment threads about the complexities of robot control software and the value--and difficulties--of developing easier-to-use point and click software.
For those interested in such things, www.linuxCNC.org is an open source "CNC" project that derived from work done by NIST in the 90's.
The codebase was started by people at NIST, then went open source when the NIST project ended. The code has all of the elements of a full motion control system, including trajectory planning, and forward and reverse kinematics modules that allow it to control strange machine geometries such as stewart platforms.
Ann and Beth, that is a good question. I looked at their site, and support is strictly "community" or Willow Garage itself. There is no paid support. Open source software in general works becuase there is a paid support option. You can develop without spending money on the software. When you are doing something commercial, you can then purchase support, and in some cases a more capable version of the software. This "upgrade" path is important. I don't see that here. I expect that this will remain a research and hobbyist item.
Another great example of the power of open source software. What's your sense, Ann, of how open source can foster the development and functionality of industrial robots? Have there been limitations with the technology and its application due to proprietary standards and platforms?
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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