Open Source Tools Open the Way to Advanced Robotics

Career opportunities in robotics are becoming more common. Companies that once dismissed robotics as too expensive are taking a fresh look at opportunities now that Silicon Valley start-up Willow Garage has built the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) and given away the code to university and corporate-based robotics labs.

The idea is to turn the robots into something like a personal computer or smartphone, where people could focus on developing programs or apps rather than build the robot itself. So far, more than 3,100 packages of add-on code have been created, prompting some observers to predict that we’ll have a practical household robot within the next decade.

Willow Garage has also created its own domestic robot called PR2, which can mix and bake cookies, sort and fold clothes, even plays a mean game of pool. In part, it has those skills because of apps developed by UC Berkeley and MIT.

Experts also see domestic robots assisting elderly and disabled patients down the road. In the short-term, they could take on roles in small businesses and warehouses doing repetitive tasks or serving as mobile security guards. Many add-on code packages have been developed for non-domestic robots like four-rotor flying vehicles and autonomous cars.

Currently, there are over 180 jobs on Dice related to robotics, for more information on this evolving field check-out the Robotics Industry Association and follow the activities of the Congressional Robotics Caucus.

Photo: Wikimedia

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