Willow Garage Unveils Plan for New Personal Robotics Platform
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Nov 01, 2007
To jumpstart the development of future robotics applications, Willow Garage Inc. today announced its plan to develop an available, standardized robotics platform. The company also announced that it has donated $850,000 to the Stanford Computer Science Lab under the direction of Assistant Professor Andrew Ng. That Lab is currently developing advanced open source software for personal robotics. The robotic platform provided by Willow Garage, consisting of both hardware and software, is intended to give developers worldwide a standard set of tools for robotics development – and to accelerate that development once an affordable platform is available.

“In the same way that personal computers provided a platform on which word processors and spreadsheets could be developed, a robust robotics platform will provide a foundation for the next generation of robotics applications,” commented Steve Cousins, president and CEO of Willow Garage. “An open and affordable platform will let researchers and entrepreneurs focus on applications and avoid having to reinvent the wheel. It is our goal, in conjunction with the excellent work being done at Stanford, to develop and distribute that platform,” he remarked.

As part of its mission to accelerate the creation of standardized tools for robotics developers, Willow Garage has presented Stanford University with an unrestricted gift of $850,000, which Stanford will apply to its robotics and artificial intelligence research. In the STAIR (STanford AI Robot) project, Professor Ng and his team are developing a robot that navigates home and office environments, picking up and interacting with objects and tools. It is expected that the next generation of personal robots will expand on these capabilities and carry out an even larger range of household tasks. Ng and his colleague, Professor Ken Salisbury, are excited about the opportunity to advance the development of personal robotics.

“Over the long term, we hope to build robots that are general purpose and can perform many different tasks such as fetching and delivering items, tidying up a room and preparing meals. A robot capable of these tasks will revolutionize both home and office automation, leading the way to important applications from home assistants to elder care. Carrying out such tasks, however, will require significant advances in integrating learning with manipulation, perception, spoken dialog and reasoning,” stated Ng. “That integration will take robotics to a new level – and enable the robotics community to build applications in a way that parallels the evolution of applications for the personal computer,” he observed.

Willow Garage anticipates that the availability of such an affordable standardized platform will make it easier for academic and commercial developers to take the field to new levels. Building such robots requires significant advances in artificial intelligence. The AI dream of building systems that exhibit broad spectrum competence and intelligence – and incorporate machine learning, vision, navigation, planning and reasoning – becomes more viable when the most intelligent minds in the world can work from a common platform. The efforts of Willow Garage and Stanford University bode well for breaking new ground in artificial intelligence research and lay the groundwork for helping people live, and maintain, fuller lives.

About Willow Garage
Willow Garage is a privately-funded research lab focused on developing the next generation of robotic devices. The company provides a state-of-the-art infrastructure for robotic software development, including test-driven development, agile methods, and solid robotic platforms. Willow Garage is investing in robotics platforms and that will enable the next generation of robotics applications – applications that serve and enhance the lives of people. Visit us at: http://www.willowgarage.com

Contacts
CMG Delivers for Willow Garage Inc.
Marti Colwell, 760-438-3399
after hours: 760-525-5556

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