Towards Milestone 3

Milestone 3

Our goal with the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage is to create a platform for researchers and developers to more quickly advance the state of the art in robotics. We established four Milestones towards this goal and are now halfway there. In December, we completed Milestone 1, which was to autonomously navigate for 2π kilometers. This demonstrated basic hardware and software functionality for everything except the arms. In June, we completed Milestone 2, which required the robot to open doors, plug into different outlets, and autonomously navigate for 26.2 miles. This tested the manipulation capabilities of the PR2 hardware and further stressed the sensing and executive capabilities of the ROS software.

Milestone 3 is our PR2 and ROS User Experience Milestone. This requires us to shift our focus away from our own internal research accomplishments and instead focus on the ROS and PR2 community. We have created a list of open source software components that will be available when the robot ships and a collection of almost a hundred use cases for ROS and the PR2. Components range from high-level groups of software like the Navigation Stack to our lower-level common message structures. ROS/PR2 use cases range from driving the robot to writing and sharing new algorithms in ROS. This Milestone will make sure that the user experience around the components and use cases meets a high standard. Each item on the list of use cases has an owner who is responsible for thoroughly testing and improving the components to the point where our internal "user experience board" is convinced that the components and use cases have been sufficiently tested and have successfully passed.

We are committed to creating a platform that will accelerate advances in the field. Robustness and usability are the keys to ensuring that the platform will be successful. We hope the community won't be shy about making suggestions about how to continually improve ROS and the PR2. As for Milestone 4? That will be when we ship out the first 10 robots for researchers and developers to build on.