There's an ongoing effort right now to develop a shared operating system for robots so that engineers and programmers can start making common progress, rather than retracing one anothers' steps. "As a community a lot of us have wasted a lot of time reinventing the wheel," Keenan Wyrobek, one of the co-directors for the Personal Robotics Program said. Instead, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the folks at Willow Garage have been working on a Robot Operating System, or ROS, which would give developers an advanced starting point for functions which have already been worked out, such as walking or grasping something with a hand.
"Similar to the way that a personal computer has become a part of our every day lives," Keenan Wyrobek added, "we see robots having a similar future." The ROS will hopefully accelerate the development of artificial intelligence. It's the difference between a closed infrastructure, such as the one Apple forces on developers, and the open source environment Google promotes with Android.
Possibly the greatest benefit, though, is that teams all over the world could be working to solve the problems of the same robot. To that end, Willow garage is donating 10 of its PR2s (pictured above) to universities and developers. The company is also considering an "open" PR2, which would allow for people to develop software for it remotely and test it out via simulation.
Check out an overview of the PR2 and ROS programs in the video below.