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Open source system for robot hardware to speed up robot development

  • 01 December 2011
Care robot AMIGO. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.

Many universities around the world are working on the development of robots. In most cases independently, which means development takes longer, robots remain costly and products from different groups are incompatible. That’s why Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is today, 1 December 2011, starting the Robotic Open Platform (ROP), an open source system for robot hardware. The aim is for this to become a large plug and play library to which robot builders worldwide can add their designs or improve existing ones. The higher goal is to accelerate the development of applications such as care robots, and to make them much cheaper than they are at present. TU/e itself is making available the complete blueprints of its AMIGO care robot and the well known TU/e soccer robots.

Seamless
The heart of the Robotic Open Platform is a Wiki, in which all participants can make their designs available for others to copy or improve. The aim is for all elements in the Wiki to fit together seamlessly, both literally and figuratively, for example by standardization.

Much lower cost
Working together in this way will make development possible much faster and at much lower cost. “We’re putting all the drawings, diagrams and descriptions online that are needed to build a replica of our AMIGO robot”, says René van de Molengraft MSc PhD, one of the robot researchers at TU/e. “The idea is that this information will allow other research groups to build the robot at a relatively low cost. If you want to buy a robot like this, it costs around three or four hundred thousand euro. Our aim is that within a few years you’ll be able to build the successor to our AMIGO for 10,000 euro. By putting everything in the public domain you can get many more interested parties involved in the development, which means progress will be made much faster.”

All the information about AMIGO is available online from today at www.roboticopenplatform.org. Early next year all the technical documentation will be added for the soccer robots of TU/e’s Tech United team, which has played in the final of the RoboCup soccer World Championship in each of the past four years.

Example
The Robotic Open Platform will be the hardware counterpart of the existing ROS (Robot Operating System) open source system for robot software. This was started in 2007 in the USA, and many robot developers have joined in the initiative. For example the software of AMIGO is also based on the principles developed in ROS.

European robotics week
The launch of ROP is taking place during the European Robotics Week, from 28 November to 4 December. The week features more than 340 robotics-related activities, organized by 127 institutes, to focus attention on the growing importance of robots for society (www.robotics-week.eu).