Category Archives: WillowGarage

UPDATED: Willow Garage to Shut Down? Company Says ‘No, Just Changing’

Source from: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-software/willow-garage-to-shut-down

UPDATE 11:37 p.m. EST:
Here is Willow’s response in full:
Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model.
The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics.
While Willow declined to comment on our original story before we posted it, as far as we can tell Willow’s response doesn’t directly contradict any of the information that multiple sources (including current Willow employees and past Willow employees) have told us. Our concern is that if the change of funding model is as simple and as innocuous as Willow’s post makes it sound, we would not have received multiple, consistent tips over the weekend that something very serious had happened. Our original headline, stating that the company was to shut down, reflected the information that these sources gave to us. We now have decided to update it in response to Willow’s official statement. We hope to receive further clarification from the company.
IEEE Spectrum has learned that Willow Garage, the Silicon Valley robotics powerhouse that brought the world the PR2, ROS, TurtleBot, and several robotics spinoffs, will likely be dissolving within the next few months.
While we have no official confirmation or comment from Willow Garage itself, multiple sources inside the company have informed us that the decision to dissolve was announced to employees last Friday. Without any information coming from Willow (the company did not respond to our requests for comment), we’re hesitant to make too many assumptions about what exactly is going on or why, but we are reasonably certain (certain enough to be posting this) that this is not some sort of temporary situation that has a chance of being resolved: Willow employees will be moving on, and the company (or at least, the company as we know it) will cease to exist within just a few months.
The biggest question we have is of course why this is happening, although it’s worth noting that much of the practical (i.e. income generating) work being done with the products that Willow Garage has created is being performed not by Willow itself, but by Willow spin-offs, including the Open Source Robotics Foundation, Industrial Perception, hiDOF, and most recently, Suitable Technologies. With that in mind, we’ve got a lot of questions that we’ll be asking these companies over the next days and weeks to try and figure out how their future is going to change, or if it’s going to change, in a post-Willow robotics industry.
We’ve been fans of Willow Garage for a long, long time. Through the PR2, Willow helped break the hardware cycle that kept researchers building robots and not teaching them to do anything. Through ROS and its commitment to open source, Willow helped foster a culture of collaboration and made sure that good ideas and hard work benefited everyone. And through TurtleBot, Willow made advanced robotics accessible to dedicated researchers and hobbyists who might not have been able to afford a PR2. Willow has played a hugely significant role in robotics over the last five years, but whether we like it or not, and whether we’re prepared for it or not, it appears as though we’re going to have to tackle the future without them.
With this news public, we’re expecting some sort of announcement from Willow Garage, and we’ll be following up with everyone we can to try and figure out exactly what’s going on.

A tiny personal story about WG.

I found a tiny personal story when he or she visited WG.

I like the fundamental mind of WG, “The goal is to ensure that robots working in a human-rich environment don’t start maiming humans unintentionally” as a little bit similar mine.

Even though we don’t know when this goal is going to be achieved,(I hope before our period.) I’am strongly looking forward to seeing what happen for a decade or a couple of decades later in robotic fields.

In addition it would be nice if I could be at the center or taking important roles of robotic area like what rodney brooks did.

http://www.hearye.org/2011/07/willow-garage/

Willow Road is one of the roads that I take to get back home from the 101 highway that runs up the San Francisco peninsula. It twists its way through a large residential area in Menlo Park and is lined with houses and quiet side streets. But there, literally in the middle of suburbia, is a company called Willow Garage. I’ve passed it many times without knowing it was there.

The name is misleading. It is not a garage in the classical start-up sense of the word, à la Microsoft’s or Apple’s origins. It’s one large lab, and they do robots.

I attended a research study there as a participant. I can’t write about the study, but an intern there did give me a tour of the facilities. Willow designs and manufactures the hardware and software for a range of robots – from tiny ones resembling large Roombas, to large human sized ones.

I stepped into a lab which contained four or five PR2-model robots. The PR2 robot is essentially a 200 kilo box on wheels, on which is mounted two articulated arms, a computer, and a panoply of visual sensors (including a Kinect unit, to give it depth perception). The arms weigh around 50 kilos each and have been specially weighted so they don’t drop and pulverize whatever is beneath them if the robot loses power. One of Willow’s goals is to ensure that robots working in a human-rich environment don’t start maiming humans unintentionally (or intentionally… but they don’t have to worry about that just yet). Robotics are used extensively in manufacturing and factory environments, but when you start to use them in common everyday places, the approach has to be a bit different. Oh yeah, and I should mention that the price tag for each PR2 is a cool $400,000. I got to touch it.

Outside the lab was the largest flowchart I’ve ever seen in my life. Someone had printed out what seemed to be 100 sheets of paper and stuck them together on the wall of a long corridor. On each page was tens of tiny boxes with schematic diagrams in each one, all linked by a bewildering array of arrows. My guide told me that these were blueprints on how to put together a PR2.

Willow pumps out about 4-5 PR2s each month, and ships them off around the world, mostly to universities for robotics research. They also are building a Robot OS, which is in its infancy given that they still need to figure out what type of robots work best around humans. This summer, they have more than a dozen interns working for them, so a garage it is not.

Willow Garage was founded by Scott Hassan, a robotics enthusiast who made his millions after his start-up eGroups was bought by Yahoo! during the dot com boom, and then again after he joined Google. The company is almost 5 years old, but the impression I got was that this was a field still in its infancy. Based on what I saw, which looked like it was on the cutting edge, I doubt we’ll see robots become a part of household life for at least another decade or two. The costs are so high, the technology is still experimental, and there’s still a lot of work to be done on both the hardware and software sides.

Until then, we’ll have to make do with dinky little robots who bump into walls and furniture as they attempt to suck up the dirt and dust off our floors. But even so, there’s still progress to be made, as one Finnish person found out. In an infamous tweet, he wrote:

Perkele!!! Our dog had made a big poo on the floor during the day. Next, our iRobot did its 90-min daily sweep! Yes, it is Everywhere.

 

Scott hassan, early Google architecture and Willow Garage funder..

Still now I misunderstood WillowGarage(WG)’s money coming from Microsoft but it was from Google. “Scott Hassan”.

Have a read the following article.

http://www.zdnet.com/news/life-after-google-with-millions/184389

Scott Hassan, early Google architect, now robotics advocate
In 1996, Hassan was a doctoral computer science student at Stanford University when he crossed paths with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were also working on the Stanford Integrated Digital Libraries project under a National Science Foundation grant. At the time, Page and Brin were also working on a side project–developing the predecessor to Google. Hassan helped Page with the code; as thanks, the Google founders later gave Hassan a large chunk of shares after Hassan started eGroups (bought by Yahoo for $412 million in 2000).

Lore has it that Hassan owned close to a percentage point of Google, acquired through the early shares and later through a hefty investment in a company called Neotonic, which Google bought in 2003. With that large stake in Google, Hassan’s wealth could stretch to the high hundreds of millions of dollars or more than $1 billion.

Hassan keeps a low profile. He lives with his wife and kids in a multimillion-dollar house in Palo Alto. He keeps a personal Web site (password-protected), which includes lists of people he might write a reference for, including Page and Brin, movies he’s seen, and poems. He said in an e-mail that he only wants to talk about his current venture–a year-old robotics think tank called Willow Garage.

Willow Garage, based in Menlo Park, Calif., stands out in Silicon Valley because it has no immediate ambition to make money. Rather, the mission is to make Willow Garage a hub for robotics development in the areas of personal assistants, autonomous boats, and driverless cars–with the hopes of attracting talent and partnerships across the country. The company is collaborating with Stanford in the robotics field, having donated $850,000 to its computer science lab. With Hassan’s fortune, Willow Garage has plenty of time to develop new markets for robots.