iRobot and Willow Garage Debate Closed vs. Open Source Robotics at Cocktail Party
Mar 23, 2012, 22:01 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Frank Tobe)
"Angle suggested that Willow Garage's approach of freely
providing such a key component as the robotic operating system --
and the extensive libraries that go with ROS, not to mention its
source code -- was tantamount to letting the biggest consumer
electronics giants gobble up any mass market applications and
re-market them globally at low cost because they already have (or
could easily reverse-engineer) the hardware, could produce it
cheaply, the operating system was free courtesy of ROS, and the
only real cost was the acquisition of the application.
"Angle thought that the approach was dangerous and led to losing
a potentially U.S./European market to offshore commodity
conglomerates. (The dangers of losing trade secrets to foreign
conglomerates was the subject of a recent Bloomberg Businessweek
issue.) He added, "Robotics innovation represents a tremendous
opportunity for economic growth akin to automobiles, aerospace, and
information technology. If we are to freely share our 'intellectual
capital' on the open market we risk losing the economic engine that
will advance our economies and send growth and jobs overseas."
"It was Bauer's turn now, and he argued that Willow Garage's
objectives were to stimulate the industry by enabling participants
to not have to reinvent the many cross-science elements of robotics
ventures; to reuse software under the premise that by so doing it
saves developer time and allows researchers to focus on research.
By giving them free access to the tools, libraries, and simulation
capabilities of ROS, Willow Garage hopes to advance the
state-of-the-art in autonomous robotics technologies -- and the
commercial applications will follow."