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Consortium Launched for Industrial Robotic Operating System

Shaun Edwards with industrial robot arm (Southwest Research Institute)

Shaun Edwards with industrial robot arm (Southwest Research Institute)

Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio unveiled a research consortium to speed development of an operating system for robots meeting the needs of industrial users. The ROS-Industrial Consortium aims to build an extension of the Robot Operating System (ROS), an open-source common framework of software libraries and tools, currently for service and research robotics applications.

The consortium is expected to enable robotics developers to apply the advanced capabilities of ROS for industrial applications using a common platform. The consortium plans to conduct foundational research and code development at the direction of the group’s members. Test results, recommendations, and analysis generated by the consortium will likely create a competitive advantage for its members, and thus are expected to be protected from public disclosure for some time.

Projects undertaken by the ROS-Industrial Consortium are expected to include software interface standards that allow for interoperability among existing and new hardware and software. The group likewise plans to devise tools for development, maintenance, integration, and configuration of industrial robotics software.

In addition, consortium is expected to develop a general-purpose software platform to encourage the building of custom applications. The goal, says Southwest Research Institute, is to generate an “app development” environment similar to the one now enjoyed by mobile apps developers. The consortium is also expected to create code quality standards needed by industrial software products, to include code quality metrics for rating and tracking software, multi-level testing, and documentation.

In January 2012, Southwest Research Institute opened its ROS-Industrial software repository to encourage code reuse in robotics R&D, with code for various processes collected in packages or stacks. The consortium is expected to have its kickoff meeting early in 2013.

“Building on the software libraries that ROS provides,”says Shaun Edwards, a senior research engineer at Southwest Research Institute (pictured at top), “ROS-Industrial will enable advanced capabilities and interoperability with a range of off-the-shelf industrial mobile platforms, manipulators, perception systems, and peripherals, without sacrificing the reliability and safety crucial for industrial systems.”

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