For the past several weeks, visitors to Willow Garage have witnessed a PR2 robot driving itself around and plugging itself in to recharge -- again and again and again. The goal was to achieve a new record of seven days of continuous operation, which it accomplished on December 15th. We weren't content to stop there, so we let it keep on going. The PR2's record-breaking run came to a conclusion over the holidays: 138.9 km of autonomous navigation over 13 days and 2 hours of operation.
This record wasn't just about being robust -- it was about what being robust can enable as a platform for PR2 and ROS. Robots have to be able to take care of themselves in order to become more useful as personal assistants at home. It is also a boon for developers: instead of writing applications that are limited by the battery life of the robot, developers can now write applications that take days, even weeks, to complete.
During the run, there were only two interventions: one to help the robot maneuver around a chair, and another to tell the robot where it was ("re-localization"). In both cases, the robot noticed there was an issue and sent a message for help, and the issue was resolved over the web.