Industry news roundup: Boston Dynamics, iRobot, and Willow Garage

Two new items and one I should have mentioned a long time ago:

  • Boston Dynamics, of BigDog fame, looks likely to get a new contract from DARPA to build the next gen of their creepy yet awesome quadruped. Though the proposals aren't due till next year (and take it from a defense contractor, these things tend to be delayed even more), the specs appear to be tailored for the Big Dog design and Boston Dynamics is certainly the best contender. The solicitation, titled "Legged Squad Support System (LS3)", specifies improvements to terrain handling features, increased payload capabilities, and as I'm sure anyone who's seen that video will be pleased to hear, a decrease in sound. Less lawnmower, more stealth! (Thanks, Joe!)

  • I mentioned Willow Garage earlier this year when they started getting press for the open-source PR-2 personal robot. At the time, WG had two other concurrent research projects: an autonomous surface vehicle and an autonomous car. Over the summer it appears that those last two projects have been dropped and they're concentrating exclusively on PR-2. Their blog has an interesting piece-by-piece reveal of some of the subsystems as they're being built up.

  • The biggest bombshell is that everyone's favorite company iRobot has lost two of its three iconic founders. Rod Brooks, as previously reported, left his position as CTO to start a new company, Heartland Robotics. Just last week, chairman of the board Helen Greiner announced her resignation. CEO Colin Angle will add chairman duties to his plate, and both Brooks and Greiner will remain involved as a technical adviser and director, respectively. There's quite a bit of speculation and buzz online about the motivation for this, but both Brooks and Greiner have emphasized that they remain committed to iRobot's mission and their continued support of the company in their new capacities.

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