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Robotics Research Lab Willow Garage Shutting Down? 23

Posted by timothy
from the land-safely-everyone dept.
New submitter moglito writes "Willow Garage is/was acknowledge by many to be one of the best places for robotics research these days. Besides developing the PR2 it made itself a name for creating the open-source Robot Operating System ROS. But now it seems to be shutting down. [From a posting on the Willow Garage site:] 'Scott Hassan, founder of both Willow Garage and Suitable Technologies, said, 'I am excited to bring together the teams of Willow Garage and Suitable Technologies to provide the most advanced remote presence technology to people around the world.' Willow Garage will continue to support customers of its PR2 personal robotics platform and sell its remaining stock of PR2 systems. Interest in PR2 systems or support should continue to be directed to Willow Garage through its portal at www.willowgarage.com.'"
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Robotics Research Lab Willow Garage Shutting Down?

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:36AM (#44911077)

    Back in February, IEEE Spectrum reported [ieee.org] that Willow Garage was shutting down, which led to a rebuttal from WG in which they said that they were changing [willowgarage.com], not shutting down. I guess the change wasn't profitable enough.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @10:27AM (#44911497)

    The problem with robotics and its failure to catch on widely I think is largely related to the fact that robots are still expensive to manufacture. Willow Garage doesn't seem to have made much progress with that. If you could put the hardware for an arm or a human-height telepresence robot in people's hands for less than $1000, the software would take care of itself. Working on 'robot operating systems" and similar software right now probably remains wasted effort; by the time the costs for the hardware has come down, all that work will likely be obsolete anyway.

    • You may be right. But you are over simplifying it. Robot magazine (or was it servo?) published a series of articles where someone basically built their own robot compatible with PR2. I think it was in the $1000 price range.

      It's more like even something like the $500,000 pr2 is still pretty useless for anything but research. Prices need to come down orders of magnitudes more. Chicken or the egg? Until someone can market a $5 million dollar robot for $299, human size, robots will never make it into mainstr
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        If you can build it yourself for $1000, it probably would cost $10000 as a product; just look at 3D printers.

        I think two arms on wheels would be extremely useful, and if you could sell it for $1000, people would snap them up and solve all sorts of robotics problems in a heartbeat.

        The PR2 itself is ugly and overengineered, though; it's the kind of monstrosity academic groups with too much money have been producing for decades. That's not something anybody would want to have at home, no matter how useful it m

      • something like the $500,000 pr2

        At $50,000 the PR2 would be grossly overpriced for what you get.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      The problem with robotics and its failure to catch on widely I think is largely related to the fact that robots are still expensive to manufacture. Willow Garage doesn't seem to have made much progress with that. If you could put the hardware for an arm or a human-height telepresence robot in people's hands for less than $1000, the software would take care of itself. Working on 'robot operating systems" and similar software right now probably remains wasted effort; by the time the costs for the hardware has

  • So Microsoft abandoned robotics.

    Open source (Willow Garage) is abandoning robotics.

    Who is going to fulfill my lifelong fantasy started as a child of robots in real life? Google?

    I do not understand how something so pivotal in humanities history, can become so hopeless.

    Then again, I remember how completely let down and disgusted I was when 2001 came. It was nothing like the movie.

    Turns out I have had false hope about mankind all along.
  • ROS is a really good framework. And the best thing is that it's open-source so even if WG will go down ROS will continue to exist

  • Willow Garage is not so much shutting down, but rather being dismembered. You have Suitable Technologies, Industrial Perception, Open Perception, the Open Source Robotics Foundation, and Redwood Robotics as spin-offs (and I must be forgetting some). In my opinion, it never had a very good business plan in place (given the cost of the PR2 and its capabilities), but it does have the right open source attitude, which helped cement ROS as a standard in the robotics community.
  • That's too bad. I've met many of their people. They were doing good work.

    "Suitable Technologies" is just another company producing those annoying "remote presence" robots with a video phone on top. There are four or five manufacturers of those things. They can't do anything; they have no manipulation capability. They just talk.

    "Remote presence" is only useful if the person running it is someone who gets sucked up to. Like doctors. A number of health care vendors [intouchhealth.com] are trying the things.

  • by Spiked_Three (626260) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:49PM (#44914635)
    That pretty much explains it, right there.

    Miley's tit size would generate more discussion on slash dot.

    Why is robotics so ignored/boring/avoided, by even a tech community?

    I am seriously starting to believe what I said earlier, about war being robotics only chance. Fly a drone remotely, kill people, bam, tons of interests. Let's add walking robots with fully automatics to it and invade, I don't know, pick any middle east country, maybe iraq again. Sorry folks need to die, but progress must be helped along, so we can use robotics to help people.
    • by mpfife (655916)

      Why is robotics so ignored/boring/avoided, by even a tech community?

      It's a hardware problem. Most people here are software people. :D

    • Actually, guys at CM, MIT and Stanford (and many other places) are steaming ahead with robotics.
      And don't get me started on Japan.
      Another place is at the companies who are trying to build a self-driving car.
  • That story was from the 21st. Of August :) If a robotics company falls in the Valley...

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