Open-source robotics

Open-source robotics (OSR) is where the physical artifacts of the subject are offered by the open design movement. This branch of robotics makes use of open-source hardware and free and open-source software providing blueprints, schematics, and source code. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it from standard commodity components and tools—coupling it closely to the maker movement[1] and open science.

Icub full body
An open source iCub robot mounted on a supporting frame. The robot is 104 cm high and weighs around 22 kg


  • Long-term availability. Many non-open robots and components, especially at hobbyist level, are designed and sold by tiny startups which can disappear overnight, leaving customers without support. Open-source systems are guaranteed to have their designs available for ever so communities of users can, and do, continue support after the manufacturer has disappeared.
  • Avoiding lock-in. A company relying on any particular non-open component exposes itself to business risk that the supplier could ratchet up prices after they have invested time and technology building on it. Open hardware can be manufacturered by anyone, creating competition or at least the potential for competition, which both remove this risk.
  • Interchangeable software and/or hardware with common interfaces.
  • Ability to modify and fork designs more easily for customisation.
  • Scientific reproducibility - guarantees that other labs can replicate and extend work, leading to increased impact, citations and reputation for the designer.
  • Lower-cost. Costs of a robot can be decreased dramatically when all components and tools are commodities. No component seller can hold a project to ransom by ratcheting the price of a critical component, as competing suppliers can easily be interchanged.


  • For commercial organisations, open-sourcing their own designs obviously means they can no longer make large profits through the traditional engineering business model of acting as the monopoly manufacturer or seller, because the open design can be manufactured and sold by anyone including direct competitors. Profit from engineering can come from three main sources: design, manufacturing, and support. As with other open source business models, commercial designers typically make profit via their association with the brand, which may still be trademarked. A valuable brand allows them to command a premium for their own manufactured products, as it can be associated with high quality and provide a quality guarantee to customers. The same brand is also used to command a premium on associated services, such as providing installation, maintenance, and integration support for the product. Again customers will typically pay more for the knowledge that this support is provided directly by the original designer, who therefore knows the product better than competitors.
  • Some customers associate open source with amateurism, the hacker community, low quality and poor support. Serious companies using this business model may need to work harder to overcome this perception by emphasising their professionalism and brand to differentiate themselves from amateur efforts.


A first sign of the increasing popularity of building robots yourself can be found with the DIY community. What began with small competitions for remote operated vehicles (e.g. Robot combat), soon developed to the building of autonomous telepresence robots as Sparky and then true robots (being able to take decisions themselves) as the Open Automaton Project and Leaf Project. Certain commercial companies now also produce kits for making simple robots.

A recurring problem in the community has been projects, especially on Kickstarter, promising to fully open-source their hardware and then reneging on this promise once funded, in order to profit from being the sole manufacturer and seller.

Popular applications include:

See also


  1. ^ Gibb, Alicia (2015). Building Open Source Hardware: DIY Manufacturing for Hackers and Makers. New York. pp. 253–277.
  2. ^ "DIY commercial vacuum robot". The Red Ferret Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  3. ^ "DIY Roomba preposition on Arduino motherboard". Retrieved 13 September 2014.

ArduPilot:Copter previously named APM:Copter or ArduCopter is the multicopter unmanned aerial vehicle version of the open-source ArduPilot autopilot platform.

The free software approach from ArduCopter is similar to that of the Paparazzi Project and PX4 autopilot where low cost and availability enables its hobbyist use in small remotely piloted aircraft such as micro air vehicles and miniature UAVs.

Original Unboxing ArduCopter by Chris Anderson by Jani Hirvinen and his team at DIYDrones was released in August 2010.

Clearpath Robotics

Clearpath Robotics, Inc. (also known as Clearpath) was founded in 2009 by a group of four University of Waterloo graduates, and remains headquartered in Waterloo Region, Canada. The original goal of Clearpath was to streamline field robotics research for universities and private corporations, but the company has since expanded and is now also manufacturing and selling the OTTO line of self-driving vehicles for industrial environments.

DARPA Robotics Challenge

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) was a prize competition funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Held from 2012 to 2015, it aimed to develop semi-autonomous ground robots that could do "complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments." The DRC followed the DARPA Grand Challenge and DARPA Urban Challenge. It began in October 2012 and was to run for about 33 months with three competitions: a Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) that took place in June 2013; and two live hardware challenges, the DRC Trials in December 2013 and the DRC Finals in June 2015.Besides spurring development of semi-autonomous robots, the DRC also sought to make robotic software and systems development more accessible beyond the end of the program. To that end, the DRC funded the adaptation of the GAZEBO robot simulator by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) for DRC purposes and the construction of six Boston Dynamics ATLAS robots that were given to the teams that performed best in the VRC.

Dr. Gill Pratt, Program Manager DARPA Robotics Challenge described DARPA and its goals with the Robotics Challenge:DARPA’s role is to spur innovation. And we do it by focused, short term efforts. We pick things that are not impossible, but also not very low risk. So we take very high risk gambles, and those risks have tremendous payoffs. So if we’re successful it means that these robots are actually going to be able to make a difference. In particular, in disaster scenarios making society more resilient. The lesson of the original challenge [DARPA Grand Challenge - driverless cars] is that persistence pays. It’s important if you know the technology is almost there and you can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel, a little bit of persistence will pay off. What I’m hoping for in the trials is that some of the teams will score some points. I don’t think that any team is going to score all the points that there are. Maybe no teams will even score half the points that there are. But I think some teams will do moderately well. My expectation is that the robots are going to be slow. What we’re looking for right now is for the teams to just do as well as roughly that one year old child. If we can get there, then we think that we have good reason to believe that some of these teams with continued persistence for another year will actually be able to demonstrate robots that show the utility that these things might have in a real disaster scenario. DARPA is in the innovation business, not in the development business. So, what we do is we wait for technology to be almost ready for something big to happen, and then we add a focused effort to catalyze the something. It doesn’t mean that we take it all the way into a system that’s deployed or to the marketplace. We rely on the commercial sector to do that. But we provide the impetus, the extra push the technology needs to do that.

Gazebo (disambiguation)

A gazebo is a pavilion structure.

Gazebo may also refer to:

Gazebo (musician) (Paul Mazzolini; born 1960), Italian singer

Gazebo, an open source Robotics simulator

The Gazebo, a 1959 black comedy film starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds

The Gazebo (play), a play by Alec Coppel

Eric and the Dread Gazebo a story written by Richard Aronson

Gazebo simulator

Gazebo is an open-source a 3D robotics simulator.

Gazebo was a component in the Player Project from 2004 through 2011. Gazebo integrated the ODE physics engine, OpenGL rendering, and support code for sensor simulation and actuator control. In 2011, Gazebo became an independent project support by Willow Garage. In 2012, Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) became the steward of the Gazebo project.Gazebo can use multiple high-performance physics engines, such as ODE, Bullet, etc (the default is ODE). It provides realistic rendering of environments including high-quality lighting, shadows, and textures. It can model sensors that "see" the simulated environment, such as laser range finders, cameras (including wide-angle), Kinect style sensors, etc.


iCub is a 1 metre tall open source robotics humanoid robot testbed for research into human cognition and artificial intelligence.

It was designed by the RobotCub Consortium of several European universities and built by Italian Institute of Technology, and is now supported by other projects such as ITALK. The robot is open-source, with the hardware design, software and documentation all released under the GPL license. The name is a partial acronym, cub standing for Cognitive Universal Body. Initial funding for the project was €8.5 million from Unit E5 – Cognitive Systems and Robotics – of the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, and this ran for 65 months from 1 September 2004 until 31 January 2010.

The motivation behind the strongly humanoid design is the embodied cognition hypothesis, that human-like manipulation plays a vital role in the development of human cognition. A baby learns many cognitive skills by interacting with its environment and other humans using its limbs and senses, and consequently its internal model of the world is largely determined by the form of the human body. The robot was designed to test this hypothesis by allowing cognitive learning scenarios to be acted out by an accurate reproduction of the perceptual system and articulation of a small child so that it could interact with the world in the same way that such a child does.

Medical robot

A medical robot is a robot used in the medical sciences. They include surgical robots. These are in most telemanipulators, which use the surgeon's actions on one side to control the "effector" on the other side.

Open source (disambiguation)

Open source is the concept of the information allowing the replication or modification of something being open to the public.

Open source may also refer to:

Open-source license

Open-source model

Open-source software

PX4 autopilot

PX4 autopilot is an open-source autopilot system oriented toward inexpensive autonomous aircraft.Low cost and availability enable hobbyist use in small remotely piloted aircraft. The project started in 2009 and is being further developed and used at Computer Vision and Geometry Lab of ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and supported by the Autonomous Systems Lab and the Automatic Control Laboratory. Several vendors are currently producing PX4 autopilots and accessories.


The QDriverStation is a free and open-source robotics software for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

The project was started in September 2015 by Alex Spataru (Team 3794), with the objective to provide a stable, free, extensible and friendly to use alternative to the FRC Driver Station. Since then, several FRC students, alumni and mentors have contributed to the project by providing feedback, documenting the communication protocols and creating Linux packages.

Robot Operating System

Robot Operating System (ROS) is robotics middleware (i.e. collection of software frameworks for robot software development). Although ROS is not an operating system, it provides services designed for a heterogeneous computer cluster such as hardware abstraction, low-level device control, implementation of commonly used functionality, message-passing between processes, and package management. Running sets of ROS-based processes are represented in a graph architecture where processing takes place in nodes that may receive, post and multiplex sensor, control, state, planning, actuator, and other messages. Despite the importance of reactivity and low latency in robot control, ROS itself is not a real-time OS (RTOS). It is possible, however, to integrate ROS with real-time code. The lack of support for real-time systems has been addressed in the creation of ROS 2.0.Software in the ROS Ecosystem can be separated into three groups:

language-and platform-independent tools used for building and distributing ROS-based software;

ROS client library implementations such as roscpp, rospy, and roslisp;

packages containing application-related code which uses one or more ROS client libraries.Both the language-independent tools and the main client libraries (C++, Python, and Lisp) are released under the terms of the BSD license, and as such are open source software and free for both commercial and research use. The majority of other packages are licensed under a variety of open source licenses. These other packages implement commonly used functionality and applications such as hardware drivers, robot models, datatypes, planning, perception, simultaneous localization and mapping, simulation tools, and other algorithms.

The main ROS client libraries (C++, Python, and Lisp) are geared toward a Unix-like system, primarily because of their dependence on large collections of open-source software dependencies. For these client libraries, Ubuntu Linux is listed as "Supported" while other variants such as Fedora Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows are designated "Experimental" and are supported by the community. The native Java ROS client library, rosjava, however, does not share these limitations and has enabled ROS-based software to be written for the Android OS. rosjava has also enabled ROS to be integrated into an officially supported MATLAB toolbox which can be used on Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows. A JavaScript client library, roslibjs has also been developed which enables integration of software into a ROS system via any standards-compliant web browser. In September 2018 Microsoft ported Core ROS to Windows 10.

Robotics suite

A robotics suite is a visual environment for robot control and simulation. They are typically an end-to-end platform for robotics development and include tools for visual programming and creating and debugging robot applications. Developers can often interact with robots through web-based or visual interfaces.

One objective of a robotics suite is to support a variety of different robot platforms through a common programming interface. The key point about a robotics suite is that the same code will run either with a simulated robot or the corresponding real robot without modification.

Some robotic suites are based in free software, free hardware and both free software and hardware.

Robotis Bioloid

The ROBOTIS BIOLOID is a hobbyist and educational robot kit produced by the Korean robot manufacturer ROBOTIS. The BIOLOID platform consists of components and small, modular servomechanisms called the AX-12A Dynamixels, which can be used in a daisy-chained fashion to construct robots of various configurations, such as wheeled, legged, or humanoid robots. The Robot is programmed with RoboPlus - C language based software solution. The Bioloid system is thus comparable to the LEGO Mindstorms and VEXplorer kits.

Slugs (autopilot system)

Slugs is an open-source autopilot system oriented toward inexpensive autonomous aircraft.

Low cost and availability enable hobbyist use in small remotely piloted aircraft. The project started in 2009 and is being further developed and used at Autonomous Systems Lab of University of California Santa Cruz Several vendors are currently producing Slugs autopilots and accessories.

Small Device C Compiler

The Small Device C Compiler (SDCC) is a free-software, partially retargetable C compiler for microcontrollers. It is distributed under the GNU General Public License. The package also contains a linker, assembler, simulator and debugger. As of March 2007, SDCC is the only open-source C compiler for Intel 8051-compatible microcontrollers.

In 2011 the compiler was downloaded on average more than 200 times per day.


TurtleBot is a low-cost, personal robot kit with open source software. TurtleBot was created at Willow Garage by Melonee Wise and Tully Foote in November 2010.The TurtleBot kit consists of a mobile base, 3D Sensor, laptop computer, and the TurtleBot mounting hardware kit. In addition to the TurtleBot kit, users can download the TurtleBot SDK from the ROS wiki. TurtleBot is designed to be easy to buy, build, and assemble, using off the shelf consumer products and parts that easily can be created from standard materials. As an entry level mobile robotics platform, TurtleBot has many of the same capabilities of the company's larger robotics platforms, like PR2, Care-O-Bot. With TurtleBot, users can drive around and map their environment, see in 3D, and have enough horsepower to create their own applications.

Willow Garage

Willow Garage was a robotics research lab and technology incubator devoted to developing hardware and open source software for personal robotics applications. The company was probably best known for its open source software suite ROS (Robot Operating System), which has been rapidly and widely becoming a common, standard tool among robotics researchers and industry, since its initial release in 2010. It was started in late 2006 by Scott Hassan, who had worked with Larry Page and Sergey Brin to develop the technology that was the predecessor to the Google search engine. Steve Cousins was the president and CEO. Willow Garage was located in Menlo Park, California.Willow Garage shut down in early 2014. Most employees were retained by Suitable Technologies, Inc, while the support and services responsibilities were transferred to Clearpath Robotics.

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