If you think of the great open source operating systems, you think of Linux, BSD and so on. But when it comes to robotics, ROS is the open source to use. Five years since its launch we have a video to celebrate.
ROS started life as switchyard, a Stanford AI project, and moved to Willow Garage as ROS where it is still being developed as a collaborative project. The current version is ROS Fuerte and it not only offers a full operating system but a set of packages that extend what you can do. ROS is available to run under Ubuntu Linux and a range of other operating systems on an experimental basis. You can program natively in C++ or in Python via a range of modules.
More importantly it runs on a range of robotic hardware from Willow Garage's own PR2 to everyone's favorite robot, Nao. But the simplest way of gaining an impression of which robots use it is to watch the following video:
The ROS website provides the following statistics:
There are 175 organizations or individuals who have publicly release ROS software in our indexed repositories, up from 50 in 2009 (through October)
Not counting the approximately 40 PR2s all over the world, there are many hundreds of robots running ROS. We are aware of more than 90 types of robots that are running ROS, up from 50. With 28 robots with supported installation instructions.
We had 3699 public ROS packages as of April, compared to 1600 three years ago
In five more years it might well be that you have a ROS robot running around the house and ROS might be the third platform that we all have to develop for to be taken seriously.