Robotics needs a W3C

Robotics needs a W3C

Summary: Robotics needs a free, open source, universal platform on which to build. We need compatibility among the various open source projects now seeking programmer loyalty. We need a clubhouse in which to meet, a center, a base.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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Willow Garage's move to sell copies of its PR2 to the public at $400,000 (discounts of up to 30% available to researchers) is being hailed as a turning point in the industry's development. (Image from Willow Garage.)

That's because, unlike most Japanese robots, which are either purpose-built or one-offs, and unlike iRobot (which despite its name is a cleaner and military contracting company), the PR2 is built from an open source software base, with modular hardware.

Willow Garage is not the only open source base on which to build a robot. Urbi went open source last month, with a C++ library and an API. CARMEN is Carnegie-Mellon's open source robotics toolkit. Orocos also offers an open source platform for robotic control.

It's clear, then, that such PC ideas as standards and open platforms are starting to pick up in the robotics industry, which until now has been proprietary, military, industrial and (frankly) a little inaccessible to the computing mainstream.

So what does the industry need now? I would suggest it needs an organization coordinating standards, providing compatibility among the various open source offerings, a base on which everyone can grow and develop.

Something like the World Wide Web Consortium.

The W3C has come in for its share of criticism, in the 16 years since the Web was spun. Its standards process moves slowly. Google's bouncing balls, demonstrating HTML5 and CSS, were meant to speed up an adoption cycle that threatens to drag on another decade.

But the group does serve a purpose. It provides a base. Everything built up from the base refers back to the base. There are differences in how browsers render web pages, but these are minor because the base remains intact. Everyone building web pages innovates from a base of W3C standards.

Robotics needs a base.

Robotics needs a free, open source, universal platform on which to build. We need compatibility among the various open source projects now seeking programmer loyalty. We need a clubhouse in which to meet, a center, a base.

Anyone know how to build one? (Cough, cough, JimZemlin, hack. Excuse me.)

Topic: Emerging Tech

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6 comments
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  • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

    And W3C needs robots!! Maybe we can do an in-kind exchange. :)

    More seriously, W3C would be happy to host conversations about the intersection between robots and Web technology.

    Ian Jacobs, Head of W3C Communications
    ianbjacobs
    • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

      @ianbjacobs I hadn't thought of that. Thanks. Maybe you can start with Google's robot. <g>
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

    Very interesting aspect, I share this view. The only but major difference to the web consortium will be the higher technologically complexity you're faced to when looking at robotics: instead of establishing just protocols and standards for the packaging of information, when harmonising robotics you'll have to consider headlines like artificial intelligence and computing architectures. Both will dramatically change in the next years and decades. Definition of standards above abstraction layers would perhaps work somehow with the computing aspect, but not with AI: the changes we can expect will be too deep. A robotics W3C could help with a lot of issues but we should be aware of freezing development at today's essential concepts. This would perhaps speed up product development but simultaneously slow down deeper innovation. Nikolai Ensslen, Synapticon, Germany
    whte_rbt
    • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

      @whte_rbt Absolutely. You make excellent points. Thanks for writing.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

    JAUS, now an SAE standard, provides architecture guidance for unmanned systems.
    tpatten1
  • RE: Robotics needs a W3C

    I mean if you are going to make this program (Facetime) for your phones and slates to use VOIP Video/Audio over 3G/4G radios, don't you think..
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    you should be smart enough to put parts in that can actually support Next Gen Technologies like VOIP over 3G/4G wireless. And how about Dual Band WiFi Direct w/DLNA support and putting hardware with BlueTooth 3.0 built into them? How about actually putting the FM Transceiver in those chips to work for your customers inside your OS (like Android 3.0 will do). Broadcom has done that....

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    because they are another company that has seen the light and ease of becoming a part of what that Open Source Future means by doing it themselves directly.... faster! .....that's why ARM got involved and wrote support directly into Android for their Neon Engine to take advantage of Face Recognition and Smile Detection along with other features Apple doesn't have, with the same chip hardware (or the old cheap last gen junk they opted for
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