Ten years ago today, an engineer at Silicon Valley robotics lab Willow Garage published a new code repository on SourceForge. The repository, made publicly available to anyone in the world who wanted to access it, hosted the codebase for a new project Willow was working on: ROS.
The ROS code repo, set up by Ken Conley, ROS platform manager at Willow, on November 7, 2007 at 4:07:42 p.m. PT, was the first time the term ROS was used as a formal, public designation for Willow’s Robot Operating System project.
Choosing an exact date for the 10th anniversary of ROS is a little bit tricky, because what we know as ROS today is both older and younger than this: The concept of a robot operating system started at Stanford University, evolved through Willow Garage, and now resides with Open Robotics. It’s a complicated story that has shaped much of the robotics industry in recent years, and as robotics research makes the difficult transition to companies and products, the influence of ROS is becoming even more pronounced.
Over the last several weeks, IEEE Spectrum has been speaking with many of the people who helped shape ROS, from its origins as part of Stanford’s Personal Robotics Program to Willow Garage and its PR2 Beta Program, and beyond. Of course, there are many other people who contributed to ROS, and we weren’t able to talk to them all. This is our initial effort to put together an oral history and tell as much of the story of ROS as we can, in the words of the people who were there, making it happen.