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Open Source Robotics Hardware

Willow Garage To Give Away 10 Open Source Robots 44

kkleiner writes "Open source robotics received a huge momentum boost last Friday. Willow Garage, one of the driving forces behind the Robot Operating System, announced that it would be giving away ten of its new and extraordinary PR2 Beta Robots. Willow Garage has an open call for proposals, so that any research group can apply to receive one of the PR2 Betas free of charge. Applicants will have to release their research with the PR2 freely and under standard open source agreements. In this way, Willow Garage is accelerating the field of robotics, not just by making their PR2 Betas available, but by encouraging the shared development of robots and advocating an open source approach."
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Willow Garage To Give Away 10 Open Source Robots

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  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:22AM (#30816296) Journal

    You can't put a very realistic human face/body over that robot to make a Terminator. How exactly is one to start the apocalypse without an army of humanoid robots?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by aldld ( 1663705 )
      If these robots really want to start an apocalypse, they'll have to be able to figure that out themselves.
      • And I for one welcome our apocalypse-starting robot overlords and I'd like to remind them that as a trusted Slashdot poster, I can be helpful in rounding up others to contribute realistic human faces and bodies for concealing their metallic limbs.
    • That would explain a lot of things ... like the thick Austrian accent on some T800 Models (Worldwide contributors), the easily accessible processor (Open Hardware design ...), the obsession with appearing naked after time travel (I can't code with my pants on), and the suspiciously hot and anatomically correct TX and Cameron models ...

      I just hope they are BSD licensed, In that way, I can copy Summer Glau and make my own "proprietary" version ;)

  • Very nice. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aldld ( 1663705 )
    Now I just need one of these in a hamster ball.
  • by Jethro ( 14165 )

    I'll take four.

  • Duh (Score:2, Interesting)

    Make it self-replicating. Program it to build and operate all of the machinery necessary to make it's component parts, and then to assemble itself.

    • Did you ever watch the Sourcerers Apprentice section of Fantasia? Because if not, I politely suggest you do.
      • Did you ever watch the Sourcerers Apprentice section of Fantasia? Because if not, I politely suggest you do.

        He was a programmer? Or were you talking about a magician? []

        • I was refering, of course, to this [] but of course my analogy, like my spelling, failed due to the fact that the plethora of broomsticks results from them regenerating from parts of the original rather than from self replication. Apparently my humerous intentions also missed their target.
          • I knew what you were referring to and that it was a joke. I was just being a grammar-nazi.

            Apparently my humerous intentions also missed their target.

            Please tell me that was intentional []...

  • Videos! (Score:5, Informative)

    by a0schweitzer ( 1702404 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:49AM (#30816384)
    Videos of the robot [] doing some pretty cool stuff. If I was into robotics, I'd definately want to be playing with one of these!
    • I'm not into robotics, but I still want to play with one. I bet he can beat the shit out of ROB [].

    • ... videos of robots doing "cool things" while being remote controlled (i.e. not moving autonomously) are disappointing. IMHO it's far more interesting to see what researchers are doing with autonomous (virtual) robots in a simulated 3d environment, even though it isn't as visually pleasing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sourcerror ( 1718066 )
        It was demonstrated [] that with proper software it can learn and generalise movements. That's a huge achievement, and we could argue that can be called quasi autonomous. (Well, for decision making we can use classical AI techinques like expert systems.)
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sourcerror ( 1718066 )
          On the other hand they're also demonstrating the hardware, and in that case being remote controlled is irrelevant. Picking up chinaware without breaking it isn't such a trivial thing.
  • Shover Bot (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I notice that Willow Garage is near a large VA Hospital. Perhaps the robot could be used to push old people out of harms way?

  • Hardware Specs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cycon ( 11899 ) <steve [at]> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:16AM (#30817542) Homepage
    The hardware specifications [] alone are pretty impressive:

    Computation The PR2 robot has two eight-core i7 Xeon system servers on-board, each with 24 GB of RAM, a 500 GB internal hard drive, and a 1.5 TB external removable log drive. The computers and most of the sensors communicate over a 16-port gigabit Ethernet hub with a 32-gigabit backplane. The robot also has an on-board, dual-radio router that can be bridged into a WLAN, as well as a secondary, stand-alone access point for laptop or smart phone access.


    The PR2 ships with sensors in the head, arms, and base. The head contains two stereo camera pairs coupled with an LED pattern projector, a 5MP camera, a tilting laser range finder, and an IMU. The forearms each contain an ethernet-based, wide-angle camera, while the grippers have three-axis accelerometers and pressure sensor arrays on the fingertips. The base has a fixed laser range finder.

    That's a fair bit of grunt to throw at the OpenCV [] libraries, which is listed under their Supported Projects in the Software [] section. No surprise either, Willow Garage has taken over hosting the project from Intel.

    • With that kind of processing power, they're probably running their entire website off of one of their robots.
    • The PR2 robot has two eight-core i7 Xeon system servers on-board, each with 24 GB of RAM ..... over a 16-port gigabit Ethernet hub

      Thats what happens when Google funds a robot: it becomes a mobile server rack!

      But I must admit that its pretty impressive computing power to have on a mobile robot! Most research robots have relatively outdated embedded computing hardware compared to consumer laptops, so this will allow much more detailed algorithms to run.

  • Commercial interests (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:44AM (#30818170) Journal
    They are actually only giving this to RD groups. It seems like the smart thing is to ask for ideas on how to commercialize and then push that. For example, they are pushing personal assistant. Yet, the last thing that I would want, as a company, is a robot that works closely with ppl esp. unsupervised. Instead, I can think of several areas that might be far more workable. The west has stabilized their populations and in some cases are on the downward trend. Germany and Japan are 2 of these. Western EU and America have quit growth except for immigration. This can be used to decide where to focus. For example:
    1. Robotic cook and dishwasher for restaurants. In particular, at resort locations. Take the example of European ski locations vs. lakes, camping areas, etc. A set of robots can work in the winter in a restaurant at a ski location. In the summer, they are re-located to a restaurant by the ocean. These give the ability to cope with varying demands better than having to hire for worst case, but then having to either cut hours, or even layoff part way into the season.
    2. In Colorado, we have Horse stables claiming that they MUST hire illegals and pay them less than minimum, or they would not be in business. Their original carp was that they could not find ppl, but it turns out that they could not find them that would work for less than minimum. But a robot in there could do the work day and night. The same would be true of any other animal operation. More importantly, these are ideal for figuring out how to clean up industrial waste. If you can create robots that can adopt to the situation in a horse barn, or a pig feedlot, they can adopt to many others. These would also allow better adoption on the moon and mars. After all, you want to figure out how to walk around crap, not through.
    • by berglin ( 846569 )
      Reminds me of Manna []
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by radtea ( 464814 )

      Automated mine clearance also comes to mind.

      They are focusing on economically productive activities, not deadweight loss activities like the military, but mine clearance is more important to civilian populations than the the military, so it might count.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll