Open Robotics, which is the organization that includes the nonprofit Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) as well as the for-profit Open Source Robotics Corporation (OSRC), is announcing that OSRC is being acquired by Intrinsic, a standalone company within Alphabet that’s developing software to make industrial robots intuitive and accessible.
Open Robotics is of course the organization that spun off from Willow Garage in 2012 to provide some independent structure and guidance for ROS, the Robot Operating System. Over the past dozen-ish years, ROS has expanded from specialized software for robotics nerds into a powerful platform for research and industry, supported by an enthusiastic and highly engaged open source community.
Open Robotics, meanwhile, branched out in 2016 from a strict non-profit to also take on some high-profile projects for the likes of the Toyota Research Institute and NVIDIA. It has supported itself commercially by leveraging its experience and expertise in ROS development. Open Robotics currently employs more than three dozen engineers, most of whom are part of the for-profit corporation.
Intrinsic is a recent graduate from X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory; the offshoot’s mission is to “democratize access to robotics” through software tools that give traditional industrial robots “the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks.” This, the thinking goes, will improve versatility while lowering costs. Intrinsic is certainly not unique in harboring this vision, which can be traced back to Rethink Robotics (if not beyond). But Intrinsic is focused on the software side, relying on learning techniques and simulation to help industrial robots adapt and scale in a way that won’t place an undue burden on industries that may not be used to flexible automation. Earlier this year, Intrinsic acquired intelligent automation startup Vicarious, which had been working on AI-based approaches to making robots “as commonplace and easy to use as mobile phones.”
Read more in IEEE Spectrum.