It's not entirely clear what's going to happen at Willow Garage in the next weeks and months, but there has been a substantial amount of concern within the robotics community about the future of ROS, the Robot Operating System. ROS has grown far beyond Willow Garage, and is now being used by researchers, hobbyists, and industry all over the world. With Willow changing, what's going to happen to ROS? The Open Source Robotics Foundation has a blog post that should make you feel a bit better about the future.
Here's what the OSRF has to say about the future of ROS:
Given the recent news, we're working with our friends at Willow Garage to accelerate the transition of ROS stewardship to OSRF. One of the goals in establishing OSRF was to provide a long-term home for ROS, and that's where we're headed with this transition. Through generous support from the National Robotics Initiative, we're assembling a team at OSRF to continue to guide the development of ROS. We don't expect ROS development to slow down, nor do we expect any interruption to the online resources that we've all come to rely on (e.g., the ROS wiki and ROS answers).
At OSRF, we look forward to taking a more prominent role in the ROS ecosystem. We'll be seeking increased community involvement in ROS development, decision-making, maintenance, and support. Open source software works best when everyone is invested and involved, and we will work closely with the ROS community, including product development groups, research teams, students at all levels, hobbyists, and interested groups everywhere.
You can read the post on the OSRF blog here.
We've also got a press release from Clearpath Robotics, voicing its support for ROS and the OSRF:
We have received many inquiries about the future of ROS since the announcement of a change in Willow Garage's business plan. To our many valued clients, you may rest assured that we will continue to support and build upon ROS and open-source robotics software for our products.
The transition of ROS stewardship from Willow Garage to the Open Source Robotics Foundation has been under way for many months and Clearpath will do everything in its power to assist with this transition. Our position as a partner to both academic and industrial research has given us a unique perspective on commercializing robotics from the lab to the real world, and the ROS ecosystem is making this happen faster than we had ever hoped.
We are proud to say that we were one of the first companies to support and use ROS, and we are humbled to see how much it has advanced the robotics industry. We believe that the strength of the global ROS community is at critical mass and we are confident it will continue to thrive and grow.
You can read the post on the ROS blog here.
The OSRF also announced yesterday that three expert ROS developers have left Willow Garage to join the OSRF within the next few weeks. They are Tully Foote, Willow's ROS Platform Manager and Software Development Manager; Dirk Thomas, a ROS Research Engineer; and William Woodall, a Core Developer for the core ROS stacks.
[ OSRF ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.