So, depending on who you ask, Willow Garage is shutting down, pursuing commercial interests, or changing direction. But things are not as dire as some may think: ROS is fine (the OSRF will support it) and there are many options for Willow Garage to explore. Personally I’m hoping it will be snatched up by Stanford or another academic institution and become a research institute. But given the number of robots they have out (and their price tags!), a commercial path into the future seems even more likely. In any case, I doubt that Willow Garage will disappear just like that.
What caused the changes is that Willow’s founder and funder, Scott Hassan, has decided that it’s time to wean Willow Garage from his private financial support.
I’ve never met Scott, but first and foremost I think we – roboticists and robot enthusiasts around the globe – all owe him a huge THANK YOU! I think it’s fair to say that if it had not been for Scott, we would not have universities around the world sharing a common robot operating system. And, looking at the amazing contributions on the Willow Garage blog, it seems clear that the past five years in robotics would have been a lot less exciting without ROS and Willow Garage’s robots.
Scott brought the model of impact first, monetize later to robotics. Together with Steve Cousins he assembled an amazing team of people and established a network of external collaboration far and beyond anything ever seen in robotics. Did it get us a household robot that can serve us a cup of tea? No. But WOW, did it ever fast-forward us towards that goal.
So thank you Scott, for your vision, incredibly generous financial contributions, and for leading with actions. Willow Garage has already had a huge impact, and I’m sure there’s much more to come. I’m greatly looking forward to the next steps of Suitable Technologies. We all have much to look forward to from Willow Garage’s other already existing spinoffs (convenience links below) – and, who knows, from Willow Garage itself in one form or another.
Change and innovation are usually good friends, at least in my book. In spite of all the negativity out there I, for one, think the future of robotics has never been brighter.
Willow Garage’s spin offs (to date):