I, open source robot

I, open source robot

Summary: We need to celebrate the Affero GPL 3.0 version of Urbi, software that powers (among others) the Segway RMP and Lego Mindstorm.


It is common for market laggards to go open source. It is less common for market leaders to do so.

Thus we need to celebrate the Affero GPL 3.0 version of Urbi, software that powers (among others) the Segway RMP and Lego Mindstorm.

The software runs under Linux, Windows, or real time operating systems. The site has instructions for adapting the software to existing robots that were not designed around it.

The head of the French-based producer of Urbi, Gostai founder Jean-Christophe Baillie, made the announcement back in May at the IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Anchorage, Alaska, where Gostai was a gold sponsor.

Gostai isn't putting all its software under the Affero GPL. It also produces a suite of graphical programming tools for robotics called Gostai Studio, an RTC interface for Urbi called GostaiRTC, and the GostaiNet cloud computing architecture for robotics.

Perhaps the most interesting of these is GostaiNet, which allows a number of robots to be controlled remotely from a cloud cluster. All you need are robots equipped with camera, microphone and speaker, and a WiFi router, and you can build your own robot army to take over the living room.

Why go open source? To help create compatibility among robots, simply the creation of programs and behaviors, and to extend Urbi into mainstream computing, in parallel and event-driven applications with multiple agents.

Topics: Open Source, Emerging Tech

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  • RE: I, open source robot

    You asked "Why go Open Source?" in your article, and your reasoning is around compatibility, etc. I think that what you meant to say is "Open Standards" and NOT "Open Source".

    Keeping in mind that non-Open Source companies, or compaines who want to keep their IP, can adhere to Open Standards as many are today for various reasons, including Compatability amongst vendors. As someone who owns one of the platforms you spoke about (Lego Mindstorm), I have my choice of development platforms (Lego's, Microsoft Robotics Framework, and there are others) that work. If you look at robots by iRobot (maker of Roomba), you will see the same thing in their product line.

    I only bring this up, because when I talk to customers in the tech arena, they are often confused by what they read in the media, and automatically assume that Open Source == Open Standards, when that is not always the case and Closed Source != Open Standards, and that is also not always the case
    • RE: I, open source robot

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  • Sigh.


    Go on the Urbi website... Read the first few lines.

    "What is Urbi?

    Urbi is an open-source software platform to control robots or complex systems in general."

    Yeah, I think he meant open source :)

    'nuff said.
    • RE: I, open source robot

      @CommonOddity The site was changed to reflect Urbi being open source. The change was announced in May and has now become effective.
    • RE: I, open source robot

      @CommonOddity My point was, and you either missed or ignored it, is that Urbi is only one option when it comes to programming robots. As I said, take the Lego Mindstorm for example, I can use Lego's Software, Microsoft .NET (Closed Source), or one of the other Open Source solutions out there.

      It's not about the LICENSING, it's about the COMMUNICATIONS! Open Source is a licensing scheme, just as is Closed Source. Not that I am against Open Source or Closed Source licensing models, but as a developer myself, that's not the point. The point is, can I easily/freely communicate with the device (Robot in this case) and make it do what I want (i.e., Open Standards)? If not, then it takes API's, which sometimes cost money, but usually are targeted towards one platform or another (Closed or Open).

      So, again I ask... Are you sure you mean Open Source or Open Standards?
      • RE: I, open source robot


        Great clarification! I will remember your point very well. Though it isn't a mistake I have made (because I have not yet delved into making for or against arguments about open source or open standards) you point out that in the tech media (and presumably among tech bloggers and pundits) there is often the conflation of Open-Source and Open-Standards.

        Excellent point you make. Thanks!
  • RE: I, open source robot

    Aye, you are correct in what you say. But the 'licensing scheme', as you put it, has one other side effect in the long term.

    It is easily adoptable/affordable. Some APIs, kits, widgetjunk (I will not even touch this one for obvious reasons), languages etc, that have no strings attached are used by companies on a general scale and eventually somehow slip into becoming either a de fact 'open standard' (Not in all cases, obviously) or at least become an option that is viable on many platforms.

    I mean, hell, what do you think happened with the Interwebz? TCP/IP stack adpotation ahoy! The only other notable closed-source giant to challenge this was Novell, and sadly that did not go well (sure, there's a lot more to this, but let's not open this can of worms either). Gtk? Qt? The Linux kernel?

    You have software that you want running on 30 different embedded devices/servers. The platforms range from Sparc/ARM/Digital Alpha/x86 etc, what do you use? The Linux kernel.

    You got yourself an application that you want running on top of these platforms. It works well on the desktop, but you also want it to work on the relevant architectures. What do you do? Compile to relevant architecture and make sure the GUI is built on something standard like Gtk/Qt.

    This is where I was coming from. Maybe I don't fully understand the robotics scene (And I am quite sure this is where my argument falls short), but there are the odd quirks of open source that sometimes lead to an 'open standard'. Implementations, languages, etc.

    As a question to you though to get some more insight:

    This might not be seen right now in robotics as some companies want to remain proprietary- but do you feel this will change at all? I'm actually curious about this stuff :D
  • I, android, prefer another

    I prefer ROS and its BSD "licensing scheme".