In May 2010 Willow Garage, a startup robotics firm in California’s Silicon Valley, hosted a graduation for some of the world’s first humanoid robots. Eleven PR2 robots — two-armed ‘bots with wheeled bases, sensors and open-source software operating systems — “danced” with human partners.
The PR2′s debut sparked a minor robot revolution as other research groups acquired the ‘bot, by purchase or donation, and modified its open software. “Within just months of receiving its free PR2, a lab at the University of California, Berkley wrote code that allowed the robot to fold towels and bundle socks,” writes Ryan Calo, a Stanford University researcher.
To Calo, PR2 is a model for robotics development, whereby basic robots can be quickly, cheaply and legally modified for a wide range of tasks. “Innovation within open robotics could move at a dramatically faster pace and lead to an accompanying vibrant market for third party software, components and accessories,” Calo writes in the Maryland Law Review.