ROS at Five Years: Update on the Robot Operating System progress

Willow Garage's Robot Operating System was a great leap forward in creating an open platform for general purpose robotics (ArduCopter/Plane can serve as "ROS nodes"). The team has now posted a five-year status report, showing the growth of the platform.

From the post:

·      People often ask how many users are there of ROS.  Due to the open source nature of ROS, we simply don't know how many ROS users there are in the world. What we can tell you is that the wiki has had over 55,000 unique visitors in the last month.  This doesn't include traffic to our many worldwide mirrors.  

The latest version of ROS, Groovy Galapagos, is currently in Beta 1 Release.  Groovy will be the sixth full release of ROS.  This release is laying the foundations for enabling ROS to continue to grow the number of platforms supported.   

Inspired by The Mozilla FoundationThe Apache Software Foundation, and The GNOME Foundation, our three-year anniversary blog post discussed the possibility of a ROS Foundation.  In May of this year, Willow Garage announced the debut of the Open Source Robotics Foundation, Inc. OSRF is an independent non-profit organization founded by members of the global robotics community whose mission is to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development.

Because of the BSD license for ROS, we often have no idea who is using ROS in their commercial deployments.  We suspect there are a few we are missing, but two major new products were announced this year that are built using ROS.  First is Baxter from Rethink Robotics.  Baxter was announced just a few months ago and the company has set their sites on manufacturing industries.  Check out IEEE Spectrum's article on Rethink here.  Also built on ROS is Toyota's Human Support Robot (HSR), which is designed to help those with limited mobility within the home.  ROS has even made inroads within the industrial robot world of late, specifically through the ROS-Industrial Consortium.

We can't discuss commercial deployments of ROS without mentioning TurtleBot, originally released in April 2011.  Recognizing that not everyone can afford, or even needs, a $280,000 PR2 robot, TurtleBot was brought to market for the express purpose of letting as many people as possible get their hands on ROS.  TurtleBot 2.0 was recently featured on Engadget and is now available for pre-order at

At Willow Garage, we often refer to ourselves as a software company disguised as a robot company, and we can point to the ongoing growth of ROS as proof of that assertion.   We have also been stating for some time that we need a LAMP stack for robotics.  With the latest developments in commercial robots built on ROS, it feels like we are in the beginning stages of that process.  We can't predict what ROS will look like in five year, or twenty-five, but if we continue to see the adoption, innovation, and excitement from the ROS community that we have seen in the first five years, then things are certainly looking Rosey.


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Comment by Cliff-E on December 3, 2012 at 6:51pm

we need a LAMP stack for robotics


Been asking for a s/w stack (like LAMP) since the early days of ROS instead of a loose set of functional libraries tied together by a web-service like bus architecture... and considering real-time linux is in a somewhat weird state since mainline kernel-rt support ended was a set back for [easy] real-time needs.

A stack makes more sense for commercial use as industrial applications can create [real] benchmarks -- critical for meeting performance and safety requirements.


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