Willow Garage is one of the leading innovators of open source robotics, so it’s no surprise that they introduce some of the coolest updates for ROS (Robot Operating System). The Silicon Valley based robotics firm recently announced that it’s developing a web browser interface for ROS, letting you control your robots from just about anywhere. Apparently WG has guided a bot in California from a Japanese fish market via a smart phone. Pretty cool. The new web interface for ROS will give users access to all the software packages already developed and future code will be integrated as it becomes available. According to the ROS site, WG is hoping to include 3D visualization in the browser interface (based on Google’s O3D API) giving even better insight into what your bot is up to. Those interested in taking a look at the ROS interface code, or adapting it for use in their own robots, can find the wiki here. Check out the announcement video from Willow Garage below – it features some great footage of their PR2 research robot.
A web browser interface will dramatically increase the accessibility of Willow Garage’s research robots. We’ve seen how WG is planning on giving away 10 of its top notch PR2 bots, and has developed an effective (and fairly cheap) telepresence robot (the Texai). Web interfaces would allow research teams to cooperate like in exciting new ways via the PR2 – you could give access of your robot to almost anyone and vice versa. Likewise, the Texai could be shared and worked on by groups simultaneously. The ROS web interface also points to a future when robots will be controlled via the same mechanism that we interact with so much of our technology – internet browsers. Open source robots of the future may be controlled via smart phones and PDAs – this is already happening in limited situations. In the meantime, the universal use of web browsers should speed up and enhance the development of ROS, as well as the robots associated with it. I can’t wait to see what Willow Garage comes up with next.