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Willow Garage gets robots into researchers' hands
Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 27 May 2010 17:57

From C/Net News

MENLO PARK, California--If you've never seen 11 all-purpose robots doing a choreographed flag-waving dance--and really, who has?--Willow Garage was the place to be Wednesday night.

That's because Willow Garage, a developer of robotics hardware and software, threw a party to celebrate the "graduation" of 11 teams  from around the world, each of which has won the right to take possession for two years of one of Willow Garage's PR2 open-source robots and work on a series of innovative and unique research projects.

The idea is that each team, using the PR2 robots and Willow Garage's open-source Robot Operating System (ROS), will find its own uses for the platform and will share its work with the entire robotics community, allowing everyone involved to benefit from the research.

The 11 teams--from Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat in Freiburg, Germany; Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Technische Universitat in Munich; the University of California at Berkeley; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Southern California; the University of Tokyo; and the Bosch Research and Technology Center--will get a rare chance to spend two years with a PR2. Willow Garage is rolling out the PR2 beta program in hopes that the work done by the 11 institutions will further the field of robotics and, over the long haul, create a wider market for all-purpose robots.

The company was founded with the long-term notion of building that wide market, not with the idea of maximizing short-term profits, said president and CEO Steve Cousins. It's not that Willow Garage is a nonprofit, he added, but that it has been blessed with the financial resources to think about how it can, over a number of years, enable many others to develop innovative robots using its software and hardware. "We want everyone to work together," said Cousins. "We're happy having a smaller piece of the pie, but having the pie be much, much bigger."


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