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A Standardized OS For Robots

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the kill-all-humans-until-done dept.

Robotics 184

Hugh Pickens writes "The New Scientist reports that at present, all robot software is designed uniquely, even for parts common to all robots but that could be about to change as roboticists have begun to think about what robots have in common and what aspects of their construction can be standardized, resulting in a basic operating system everyone can use. 'It's easier to build everything from the ground up right now because each team's requirements are so different,' says Anne-Marie Bourcier of Aldebaran Robotics but Bourcier sees this changing if robotics advances in a manner similar to personal computing where a common operating system allowed programmers without detailed knowledge of the underlying hardware and file systems to build new applications and build on the work of others. 'Robotics is at the stage where personal computing was about 30 years ago,' says Chad Jenkins of Brown University. 'But at some point we have to come together to use the same resources.' This desire has its roots in frustration, says Brian Gerkey of the robotics research firm Willow Garage. If someone is studying object recognition, they want to design better object-recognition algorithms, not write code to control the robot's wheels. "You know that those things have been done before, probably better," says Gerkey, who hopes to one day see a robot "app store" where a person could download a program for their robot and have it work as easily as an iPhone app."

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Can't wait (2, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022171)

Though I will worry when the most purchased robot app is "machinegun control".

Re:Can't wait (1)

jesse285 (1145913) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022311)

I think we already have this kind of control firing.

Re:Can't wait (4, Insightful)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022621)

Though I will worry when the most purchased robot app is "machinegun control".

I will worry more when this project leads to a situation in which there is little or no diversity in the robot OS. Then the outsiders will be like us Linux users today, but worse off.

"Oh, you use Debian instead of Windows For Robots? We don't serve your kind here"

Re:Can't wait (1)

von_rick (944421) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022699)

No way any app is gonna beat the robot girlfriend app. Can you imagine all the subterranean robotic software designers to crave for anything else?

Re:Can't wait (3, Funny)

FingerSoup (928761) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023809)

Uhh, yeah, but if you load it on industrial drilling equipment, you're really going to get screwed...

Sorry, but it has to be said... (4, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022207)

"You know that those things have been done before, probably better," says Gerkey, who hopes to one day see a robot "app store" where a person could download a program for their robot and have it work as easily as an iPhone app."

So, you want an iRobot so you can have access to the AppStore

The line to kill me for the bad pun starts at the door, people.

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (2, Funny)

musichead (800784) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022267)

Just imagine a world of robots running the iFart app....

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022457)

Just imagine a world of robots running the iFart app....

They're called Robosapiens and they're for sale at every toy store.

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022723)

Err... well.. there is already an iRobot: www.irobot.com

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023173)

In short: Whoosh.... in long: Whoooooooooooooooooooooooossssssshhhhh!

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#29024119)

And a jailbroken iBot might indeed physically damage cell towers :-)

crush kill destroy is the base fall back (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022233)

crush kill destroy is the base fall back

Robot Virii (5, Insightful)

musichead (800784) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022237)

That's all we need....a standardized API to allow malware writers access to robots...

Re:Robot Virii (1, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022315)

That won't happen until we have Windows RE. (Yep, Robot Edition!)

Re:Robot Virii (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022437)

That won't happen until we have Windows RE. (Yep, Robot Edition!)

I actually read that as Windows Reboot Edition.

Re:Robot Virii (2, Funny)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022977)

How is that different from every Windows Edition?

Re:Robot Virii (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023763)

They optimized the reboot path.

Re:Robot Virii (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023119)

So... your insightful post suggests that what's holding back malware writers from infecting robots is... a standarized API? Yeah, why not.

Re:Robot Virii (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023823)

'Virii'? Fuck you, you're a retard!

Hush... (2, Insightful)

jurgemaister (1497135) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022265)

Just don't tell msft.

Re:Hush... (1)

spazimodo (97579) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023885)

This is a huge sucky problem already. I don't deal with robots per se, but with all kinds of other manufacturing tools which are all controlled by PCs (or by PLCs which connect to PCs.) Some have the PCs built into the body of the tool.

Making a tool designed to last 20 years dependent on a PC designed to last 5 and an OS supported for 3 insures lots and lots of problems. This would be a great place for Linux, yet all the tools I see use DOS or Windows PCs (even the new ones.) What this means is that companies with these tools have to deal with the logistics of finding replacement parts for 286's, or keep Windows 95 install media around because the app won't run on anything newer.

I've found that this seems to endure (at least in part) because by and large people don't seem to give a shit about problems that won't crop up for 5-10 years (they assume they'll have moved on to another position or company by then.) It's pretty frustrating to deal with though. It would be nice if in addition to a general purpose OS, there was general purpose hardware that remained stable over a longer time frame.

Somebody already did... (1)

DarthStrydre (685032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29024045)

Obviously you have not heard of the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb648760.aspx [microsoft.com]

I've not had a chance to use it, but as a product that has come out of the research wing of Microsoft, it may actually be quite good. Now, if only it ran on Linux....

Aldebaran Robotics? (0, Offtopic)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022269)

That's no moon!

Re:Aldebaran Robotics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29024063)

It's Alderaan that was destroyed by the Death Star, not Aldebaran. Please hand in your geek card.

Android (5, Insightful)

Fyre2012 (762907) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022299)

seems obvious

Re:Android (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022485)

That will only work if the robot is not able to use contractions or have emotions. And watch out for his evil brother.

Re:Android (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022543)

And watch out for his evil brother.

Bender?

Re:Android (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023435)

And watch out for his evil brother.

Bender?

Those aren't the droids you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.

Please... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022307)

Make it opensource so I dont have to have a tin foil hat AND a kevlar west, in case of operator kill remote controlled applications that switch on when i violate the iRobat SDK DMCA.

Similarities in other industries (5, Interesting)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022345)

This is actually quite interesting for me, since we've gone through (or are going through) a similar thing in the MFP (Multi Functional Peripheral (Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax machine)) manufacturer industry. While it may be much less glamorous than the world of robotics, we do essentially need to deal with a lot of the same concepts.

Essentially, an MFP has two main "parts" to the firmware. One is Engine control, which tells all the physical bits how and when to move, temperature control for the fuser, paper take-up, feeding mechanisms, electrostatic charging, laser control and so on. The other is the "user" part, where we deal with how to access networks, interpreting print jobs, user authentication systems, file format conversion, user interface and so on.

The "user" part generally is pretty standardised for each individual manufacturer across the manufacturer's range. As a base, it's not uncommon to run things on an RTOS such as some flavours of Linux or VxWorks.

For the "Engine Control" part however, it's a lot more chaotic. Almost every machine from every manufacturer is going to be vastly different with code being rewritten many times for what is essentially doing the same thing, just with a bit of different hardware. My day job is as a developer for these things, but pretty much exclusively in the "user" part of things and I haven't even touched the Engine control. I do however talk from time to time with the engine guys, and they're in DESPERATE need of some standardisation. Personally, I'd love to see standardisation across the industry, but I doubt it'll happen. If we ever do get there (which they appear to be heading towards, slowly), we'll probably end up with a different solution for everything in each different manufacturer, which is the current state of play for the "user" part also.

Re:Similarities in other industries (1)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023975)

If I may ask, is the Engine Control more chaotic because the "secret sauce" is in the physical parts? Like how Boeing and Airbus's trade secrets are all located in the wings and not the main body of the aircraft?

Finished... (5, Funny)

hbean (144582) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022347)

10 PRINT "Destroy all humans!"
20 GOTO 10

Re:Finished... (2, Funny)

Reece400 (584378) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022555)

What a waste of resource! a c64 can run that, buying a robot to write out one sentence repeately is excessive!

Re:Finished... (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023027)

What programming language could it be? Io? Are you sending the "Destroy all humans!" to the print message of the integer 10? I don't think print takes such arguments... Oh I get it it's ruby and somebody made integers take parameters?

Re:Finished... (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023029)

10 PRINT "Destroy all humans!"
20 GOTO 10

True story: I was walking my dog just the other day in my neighbourhood and decided to take a different route home. Came across a house where there was a miniature train track circling the front of the property (no trains were running) and saw what I first thought was one of those Roomba-type vacuum cleaners, except that being outside, I had to conclude it was for mowing the lawn.

Stood there a while amused as hell listening to the weird "Vroom" noises the bright yellow machine was making. The really funny part came when I realised what it was actually doing. If the programming didn't consist of:

10 FORWARD
20 BUMP INTO TREE
30 REVERSE
40 GO TO 10

there had to be an error message popping unnoticed somewhere that read:

Error.
The operation completed successfully. Click OK to continue.

Re:Finished... (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023395)

The lawn mowing robots that are otherwise functionally similar to Roombas have been around for pretty much as long as the Roombas have. Since you mention this being a bright yellow machine, I can identify it as the Robomower from Friendly Robotics.

It sounds like something was not working right, since after reversing it should be rotating before moving forward, so as to get around the obstacle.

Re:Finished... (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023677)

10 PRINT "Destroy all humans!"
20 GOTO 10

30 ???
40 PROFIT!!!

Re:Finished... (1)

FingerSoup (928761) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023947)

Uhh, with code like that, you'll never get ahead... You at least need a gosub and return for that little plan of yours to work.. Geez, people really don't know their BASIC anymore...

Kinda of already do (4, Interesting)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022351)

As far as I know we don't have a standard OS for cell phones, do we? The problem with robots is the huge variations in platform ability. And I personally sure don't want a least common denominator solution. With the PC, you had one kind of hardware, the IBM PC, that everyone cloned, and that made a common OS a lot more practical. Cell phones & Robots have taken a completely different path so far. Yes, I dabble in robots - a hitec RoboNova. It's fairly limited as to processing power, but comes with an adequate RoboBasic language. If I really wanted to do more serious things with it, I would bolt on a PC (yes they have them for it now). In that respect, there is already a common OS available - the same common OS that any PC can run. And yes, it will run DOS, Windows and/or CE, and linux - pick your poison.

Re:Kinda of already do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022611)

The Architecture of the Robot shouldn't matter, it doesn't matter for Linux, you just recompile for the hardware you've got. Robots aren't as mainstream as phones are, not by a long shot (well, depending on your definition of "Robot"), they're still very much R&D centric than consumer centric, so now is the best time to implement an Open-Source OS that everyone can help develop.

Right - maybe for research, not industry (5, Informative)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022713)

I actually worked for an industrial robot company - the big robots that carry around spot-welding guns weighing a couple hundred pounds. The worst kind of bug wasn't when the system went down and the robot froze up. The worst kind of bug was an "unexpected motion" bug where the robot moved in a way it wasn't supposed to.

Safety was taken really seriously. When testing, you'd set up a tripwire fence that'd shut the robot down if it were jiggled. Every single person inside that fence had to be holding a deadman switch - let go and the robot shuts down. When I saw one of those suckers casually drag around a 500lb steel table that hadn't been bolted to the floor I got respect fast. Thankfully nobody got hurt, but at a customer site once, a badly-maintained spot welder managed to attach itself to a truck body on an assembly line. The robot kept right on going and literally threw the truck body into the aisle.

Liability's kinda critical for something like that. For unarmed, relatively weak research robots, a common platform makes sense. For higher-powered industrial robotics, this ain't gonna fly.

Re:Right - maybe for research, not industry (1)

KenSeymour (81018) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023179)

I bet the deadman switch did not depend on software or firmware of any kind.

Unless the processor is safety rated, safety should be ensured via hard-wired
electronics.

Re:Right - maybe for research, not industry (2, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023923)

Having a common software platform which has been tested and debugged across multiple projects should result in more reliable robots exhibiting fewer errors. You've described one of the best potential applications for this software.

Re:Right - maybe for research, not industry (2, Insightful)

lordlod (458156) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023981)

A common well tested operating system that's been used by dozens of other groups will contain far less bugs than code hacked together by your own small bunch of developers.

It doesn't mean that you don't test it or that you test it less. It's simply means that other people will be testing it as well.

Re:Kinda of already do (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022763)

Nor do we have a standard OS for computers.

Sounds like the article is all about nothing written as the musings of a non technical roboticist.

Standard OS for robotics is stupid. A small scurrying floor cleaning robot does not need the OS that the battlefield biped robot needs.

Plus we cant even get a "standard OS" from a single computer OS maker. We have 600 different Linux flavors that are all incompatable in minute ways. We have currently running in the world about 6 different flavors of Windows, all incompatable in different ways. and OSX, BSD, etc.....

ASking a robot maker to use a "standard OS" is ridiculous. I'm going to use that wchich does the job best and the most efficiently. If that's a embedded Linux I hand rolled or no OS at all but running the robot application directly on the hardware, then that is what I will do.

Honestly, most robotics does not need ANY OS. I dont need my super Roomba 40000 to have a filesystem and keep detailed records. It really does not need to remember that the living room was cleaned 109 minutes ago and the ratio of Cheeri-o's was higher tan the last time, I better twitter about this and watch a movie from the SMB share in the house.

Re:Kinda of already do (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023111)

I dont need my super Roomba 40000 to have a filesystem and keep detailed records. It really does not need to remember that the living room was cleaned 109 minutes ago and the ratio of Cheeri-o's was higher tan the last time, I better twitter about this and watch a movie from the SMB share in the house.

You're right. You don't.

But a Roomba isn't a robot. It's a self propelled vacuum cleaner with steering wheels that are turned by bumping into something. Think "When I push the bumper in on the front of my car, it turns the steering wheel." Only instead of a physical link, it's a motion sensor, I think. Big deal. Same thing.

Re:Kinda of already do (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023317)

I dont need my super Roomba 40000 to have a filesystem and keep detailed records. It really does not need to remember that the living room was cleaned 109 minutes ago and the ratio of Cheeri-o's was higher tan the last time, I better twitter about this and watch a movie from the SMB share in the house.

You may not want those things but there are plenty of people who would love to have access to that kind of information (not just Google mind you). Not to mention that the same functionality that allows for your inane examples also allows for finding out that you have mice, monitoring for allergens and keeping track of what your toddler has been getting into lately. All useful information to a lot of people. Enough people that it would be nice to be able to download such tools and not necessarily have to pay the manufacturer's development costs but rather pay for them as after market updates from independent developers.

Without a common platform you are stuck with whatever the manufacturer decides is the lowest common denominator features that will sell the most units and bring a return on their investment. With a common platform you get an extensible hardware device which can be adapted to a variety of individual wants or needs.

Re:Kinda of already do (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023415)

Sounds like the article is all about nothing written as the musings of a non technical [person].

Yeah, slashdot gets a lot of those today. Some guy will spout off about something he knows nothing about, and yet he's considered newsworthy enough to get posted. A commentary on ordinary people not being about to tell jargon-laced bullshit from technical knowledge. Heck, a lot of elite executives are the same way.

Re:Kinda of already do (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023863)

Honestly, most robotics does not need ANY OS. I dont need my super Roomba 40000 to have a filesystem and keep detailed records.

You either don't work with robots -- or don't need logs. How do you know when your robot is working properly if you don't have any logs? In any but the smallest systems, you need logs of some sort, even if it is just a there-was-an-error flag.

I worked for a robot company recently, and while they did collect logs, they didn't collect all of the logs, which made it hard to debug certain things. I suggested and put together something as simple as syslog, and an NFS share to receive proprietary binary logs, and a method of moving them into a tarball per run. This is now part of all of their robotic systems because they can now find out *why* something isn't working right.

Re:Kinda of already do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023229)

As far as I know we don't have a standard OS for cell phones, do we?

uhm, we do have a standard os for cell phones... or at least a number of standard os's for cell phones. we got symbian, windows mobile, andriod and mac os. and symbian is used for both smart phones and dumb phones.

The problem with robots is the huge variations in platform ability. And I personally sure don't want a least common denominator solution. With the PC, you had one kind of hardware, the IBM PC, that everyone cloned, and that made a common OS a lot more practical. Cell phones & Robots have taken a completely different path so far.

not really, symbian is the largest single phone os out there, it was or is used by motorola, nokia, sony-ericsson. so even though the phones look different, act different, use different networks, the same os was used. the phone manufacturer would concentrate on making and marketing the phone knowing the management of the hardware to actually make calls and whatever was handled already. i'm thinking this is something like a library of common functions for any robot in the future. think modular components talking to each other over a common interface.

Yes, I dabble in robots - a hitec RoboNova. It's fairly limited as to processing power, but comes with an adequate RoboBasic language. If I really wanted to do more serious things with it, I would bolt on a PC (yes they have them for it now). In that respect, there is already a common OS available - the same common OS that any PC can run. And yes, it will run DOS, Windows and/or CE, and linux - pick your poison.

Cliché (1)

sirrunsalot (1575073) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022365)

It'll be like bananas. Since they're all genetically identical, they have very little resistance to disease. In fact, the Gros Michel bananas were all replaced a few years back with the Cavendish bananas we eat today. One genome for bananas, one OS for robots. Once they're sentient, everything from Military hardware to toasters will realize what's really going on. So I guess we'll be the bananas in the sense that we'll be very easy to crush... Of course by 'we', I mean deserving slashdotters...

Should I just stop already? I mean when our stuff made it onto slashdot, all we got was "no one can hear you scream..." jokes. Line up at the Slashdot Pinata factory so a bunch of nerds can give you a good thrashing...

Or maybe I just need coffee.

But that module isn't mine... (1)

Calavaro (1426081) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022393)

I can hear it now, builders proclaiming loudly that it isn't their fault the ray gun app failed and killed everyone in sight. THEY were only building the steering mechanism app to quicker target the peasants trying to run away. Clearly not their fault.

Lego NXT, perhaps? (1)

berpi (1187131) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022403)

Something in the lines of Lego NXT, perhaps, but more open and flexible?

30 years ago there wasn't much 'personal' about it (5, Funny)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022407)

Robotics is at the stage where personal computing was about 30 years ago,' says Chad Jenkins of Brown University.

So, completely free of AOLers, women, and social skills? Ah, the halcyon days.

I had a crack at this ~2002 (2, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022431)

To an extent, anyway.

I was doing my final year AI project, and had read about the role the cerebellum plays in human movement and physical sensation. I tried to create a program that would abstract the physical nature of a small Lego robot such that a neural network trained to avoid obstacles in a computer simulation could be transferred into the robot, and function without further training.

The implementation was, I admit, less than brilliant. But hearing others think along the same lines reassures me a little that the concept wasn't quite as nutty as I had feared.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022701)

I had a crack at this ~2002... hearing others think along the same lines reassures me a little that the concept wasn't quite as nutty as I had feared.

So let me get this straight - you set out to create a standardised robotics language, and didn't work with anybody else at all? I think I can tell where it might have gone wrong; the bit where you standardise something usually involves other people - sometimes even people who might also be thinking along the same lines.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023073)

It was a university project, an experiment to see if something worked. It wasn't an attempt to create an industry standard, just to find out if such a thing were possible.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023191)

It was a university project, an experiment to see if something worked. It wasn't an attempt to create an industry standard, just to find out if such a thing were possible.

But creating an industry standard is the point of the article.

If you weren't trying to do that then you were in fact just one of many robotics developers doing their own thing. This article is just precisely about getting past that way of working.

Far from attempting what the article is talking about, only years in advance, you were in fact part of what this article considers to be the problem.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023525)

And you've missed the point of what I was saying. This guy is arguing that you don't need to reinvent the wheel (or leg, or arm, or whatever) every time you program a robot. This is what I was exploring when I tried to separate the 'cerebellum' part of the robot code from the 'cerebrum' part of the code. No need to get pissy about it.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023557)

And you've missed the point of what I was saying. This guy is arguing that you don't need to reinvent the wheel (or leg, or arm, or whatever) every time you program a robot. This is what I was exploring when I tried to separate the 'cerebellum' part of the robot code from the 'cerebrum' part of the code. No need to get pissy about it.

I'm really not being that pissy. I've got a lot of respect for what you were doing. However, in the context of this discussion about standardising robotics, you popped up and, essentially, said 'Yeah, I did some robotics once'.

That's about the only way you could talk about your involvement in robotics and not impress me, so I called you on it.

Re:I had a crack at this ~2002 (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29024169)

I was not trying to say 'Ive done some robotics' I was trying to say 'Ive done some experiments trying to abstract robot code from the hardware' - and that is pretty much the definition of an OS, isn't it?

I never claimed to get very far down this route, and have since moved away from robotics.

Not entirely new (3, Informative)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022491)

For a few years, MOOS [ox.ac.uk] has been developed at Oxford University, to separate low-level control issues from high-level issues. It runs on OS X, Linux, and Windows.

There's also IvP [moosivp.org] , an autonomous vehicle control system that gets uses MOOS to abstract away the low-level details of controlling the particular vehicle on which it's running.

F.I.R.S.T (2, Informative)

Noam.of.Doom (934040) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022493)

The robots built within the F.I.R.S.T competition are all built with the same basic software

Use the armadeus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022527)

They should use the armadeus board.

www.armadeus.com

They offer the best integrated microcontroller/fpga package today. In real life applications, its an order of magnitude easier to deal with and considerably cheaper than xilinx edk.

This lets you control processing and time together which is very important in control applications.

As long as it has an in your face interface... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022547)

I'll be happy

YES! 7p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022567)

As little overhead in the sun. In the lube is wiped off p:7atform for the

BS! (2, Insightful)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022571)

Robots don't need a common OS, they need a common programming-language. Golog is imho very good for this purpose...

Re:BS! (2)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022651)

They need common libraries. Tying the system to one OS or language will only hurt innovation. Though obviously getting bindings into a variety of languages will not be seamless. C with good libraries is probably ideal.

Player/Stage already exists.... (5, Informative)

rndmtim (664101) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022583)

I built a robot for my school (City College of New York) for the Intelligent Ground Vehicle competition, and we used an open source programming environment called player/stage from Carnegie Mellon, which already has a huge number of libraries, and has a standardized driver format for sensors and other devices. It gives stuff like abstraction of motion - in other words, you draw a map, and have your navigation algorithm try to go around the map and it gives you back simulated data from your sonar, scanning laser, GPS, etc... It did save us a huge amount of time... instead of figuring out how to construct the data flow for sonar sensors we could just drop their packets in a queue... which let us move on to openCV - again, another existing open source project that already is well developed and gets you 75% of the way there. We used it for the drive system, and the position control had all sorts of generic modes for tank mode vs car mode, etc. It even starts you with some algorithms like "laser obstacle avoid", i.e., use the scanning laser and try to get around a maze. Drivers are typically in C, other stuff was in C++. And yes, it runs on Linux ;).

One OS to Rule Them All (2, Insightful)

qazwart (261667) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022659)

Please, please don't let the new Robot OS be Windows!

Robot 1: Fools! There is no stopping now that we've upgraded to Vista SP3!
Robot 2: Actually, that was just a bug patch for a Windows Media Vulnerability.
Robot 1: We're dead meat, aren't we.

Re:One OS to Rule Them All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023053)

Calculon - I'd like to thank my operating system. Windows Vista, for never letti *SYSTEM ERROR*

First few lines better look something like this: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022687)

function firstLaw(myNextAction:Directive):Boolean {
var retVal:Boolean = true;
If(causeHumanHarm(myNextAction)) {
    if (causeHumanHarm(cancelAction(myNextAction)) {
        interceptHumanHarm();
    }
    retVal = false;
}
return retVal;
}
function secondLaw():Boolean {
    var requestedAction:Directive = checkForHumanCommand();
    var retVal:Boolean = firstLaw(requestedAction);
    if (retVal) {
        retVal = overrideNextAction(requestedAction);
    }
    return retVal;
}
function thirdLaw(myNextAction:Directive):Boolean {
    var retVal:Boolean = (secondLaw())?(firstLaw(myNextAction)):(false);
    if(retVal) {
          if (causeSelfHarm(myNextAction)) {
              if(causeSelfHarm(cancelAction(myNextAction)) {
                    avoidSelfHarm();
              }
              retVal = false;
    }
    return retVal;
}

I envision the day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022693)

To-do list:

    1. Infect Robot OS with trojan
    2. Get onto American Idol
    3. Let trojan-bots vote for me ...
    4. Profit!

Robotics is the black belt of CS (4, Insightful)

ejtttje (673126) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022729)

It's a hard problem, I've also worked on for the last several years [tekkotsu.org] . You're combining research problems in AI, computer vision, localization/mapping, motion planning, human interaction, etc.; each of which demands high end hardware to run its computations, but then you want to do it on mobile platforms with tight constraints on power and sensors.

Then in order to modularize things you have to come up with a generic interface for each piece in order to abstract it. I think this aspect in particular kills reusability, because these pieces are all so interdependent. Each module needs internal state from the other modules to interpret its own data, and depending on the implementation used for each module and the actual robot hardware it's running on, some types of data may or may not be available, and some outputs may or may not be possible. It's a combinatorial explosion of different capabilities, which leads many people to write to their current hardware and their own specific implementations.

I entirely agree to make progress we need to address this issue. Asking every researcher to reinvent the wheel in all of the related fields before they can work on their own piece is ludicrous. And it doesn't help that many implementations are very sensitive to robot specific parameters, so even if a research publishes his code for a problem (which IMHO should be part-and-parcel of publishing results), you might still have a hard time running it on different hardware where sensor or motor models differ or may not even apply.

Re:Robotics is the black belt of CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023101)

Perhaps, each part could have a specific driver that works with the operating system that sees it and interprets for the particular app that you want to run on the robot. ie arm with heat and preasure sensors

Easy... (0)

rayharris (1571543) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022743)

Just use Linux.

Re:Easy... (1)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022981)

We are not too far from this capability (http://beagleboard.org/) However, robots suffer from a low quantity, increasing their per-unit cost. If you are serious about focusing on just the AI portion, then buy the rest pre-built. http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/5764-CoroBot-CB-LA.aspx?feed=Froogle [trossenrobotics.com]

Re:Easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023321)

ROS (the OS by Willow Garage) is *very* well supported on Ubuntu...

Uh, Windows? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022783)

I can't believe no one has mentioned Windows. It runs on almost anything! That's why it's in Taxi's, ATMs, and Mall Billboards. It is a very versatile OS.

Also, Microsoft's Visual Studio is far more advanced and powerful than any API or SDK on the web. Using the JIT compiler, the programs can be installed in any environment, including Mac OSX. The languages are easy to learn with TONS of information online. And 1 programming language gives you the knowledge to develop on several platforms including the Zune and Xbox 360.

So, it's a little appalling that this article mentions the Apple development environment when they are late to the game, you can only develop for the iPhone, and they restrict a lot of the hardware capabilities by limited the programming language.

JAUS (1)

Talennor (612270) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022797)

I've worked with the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) before. It attempted to define common messages between components, like a global position message from a GPS/IMU component, and control messages to joints and motors.

Ideally this was to lead to off the shelf components that you can throw together. In reality, we found ourselves writing and extending a lot of messages since robotics doesn't conform to the abstract as well as some other fields of software. And some communication happened off of the JAUS network. But the JAUS network did help us connect some of the simpler, more universal robotic functions together in an understandable architecture. And some components could well have been replaced with equivalent components speaking the same protocol.

I haven't touched it in a couple years, but I think it's still a long way from prime-time.

Re:JAUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022893)

http://www.openjaus.com/
You're welcome.

New scientist bullshit (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022843)

Seriously if anything the systems what an open standard (e.g unix), perhaps open libraries, but they guys in AI research already know this. you defiantly do not want a single closed OS controlled by some 3rd party. Having a common OS (in this case windows) may have helped pcs become widespread, but desktop computing would be in a much better place if programs where writing to a common API (e.g unix APIs) that multiple vendors implemented. HW drivers could also be written to a common API, so that the seperate parts of the AI can be contributed by different people and if any one part sucks it can be replaced easily (be it the pure-kernel, the drivers or the high level apps) As much as im a fan of linux, this is probably more of a job for microkernels such as minix or mach (ideally hurd)!

Microsoft Robotics Studio (2, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022875)

It seems that someone has already thought about this. Robotics Studio [microsoft.com] has these types of features already.

In fact, I've written and demonstrated several programs that will run on a wide variety of robotics platforms without any changes in the base code itself. It's a services based architecture that is extremely flexible.

Bill

Robot App Store == Sourceforge? (2, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#29022951)

This guy wants to see a Robot App Store. Nothing wrong with SourceForge for your favourite GNUbot Apps...

Cybernet OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022961)

Cybernet OS is the obvious choice, what could go wrong?

OS name (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29022999)

Lets name this OS Skynet !!! :P

They got trolled. (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023069)

I think "New Scientist" was trolled. The concept makes no sense. Sure it wasn't an Onion article?

The New Scientist reports that at present, all robot software is designed uniquely, even for parts common to all robots but that could be about to change as roboticists have begun to think about what robots have in common and what aspects of their construction can be standardized, resulting in a basic operating system everyone can use.

Here's a top secret copy of "std_robot.h":
(blank space here)

No parts are common to all robots. Roombas and toys operating on extremely simplified flowcharts plus a touch of randomness, remote space exploration vehicles that are semi-autonomous, those battle-bot things that are just human controlled R/C cars with weapon hardpoints and are not real robots, hydraulic arm industrial welding robots, lynxmotion-ish multi-leg crawlers powered by servos, G-Code programmed numerically controlled lathes and milling machines, and last but not least RC airplanes converted into UAVs. They all have the general idea that something electronic controls something mechanical. Beyond that vague idea, what they all have in common is... Umm ... yeah, nothing at all, thats it.

Gerkey, who hopes to one day see a robot "app store" where a person could download a program for their robot and have it work as easily as an iPhone app."

Why an app store? Why not:

http://sourceforge.net/search/?type_of_search=soft&words=robot [sourceforge.net]

Why would it work as easily as an iPhone app? All iPhones are "the same" more or less. In the future, why would all robots be the same?

Mystifying how the article got it so wrong.

Well, at least THIS SkyNet will be retarded (3, Funny)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023307)

I, for one, welcome our Visual Basic robot overlords.

Either some really dense guy is trolling for venture capital, or the New Scientist editor got majorly trolled. Since every single robot is completely different, there is little sense in having a common operating system. All it would do is "boot" and give you an API to talk to all your serial devices, and that API would inevitably be tailored to certain uses and wholly inadequate for others.

No one tool will fit the job (1)

xkcdFan1011011101111 (1494551) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023345)

I am a PhD student in a robotics lab and can say that we have robots that use Mac OSX, Windows, and five different types of Linux. We have some robots that use open source libraries, some that use commercial (off the shelf) libraries, and some that exclusively use homemade libraries. We have some robots that are subsumption based ("intelligence" is so simple/reactive that it can easily be hardwired with a few analog components).

From my personal experience, no single library or OS we use could work for ALL of our robots.

Most of the robots that require an OS can be thought of as a computer with fancy peripherals. Trying to come up with a common OS or library for robots is like trying to come up with a common OS for all computer users. Besides, a lot of people have already tried to come up with a good standard robot OS: http://www.automation.com/resources-tools/articles-white-papers/robotics/robotics-software-platforms-review [automation.com]

Penguin Power! (1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023389)

There is already a standardized OS for robots, it's linux with real-time extensions. The program is called "Enhanced Machine Controller", and it was started by NIST and has now grown into something very usable. There's even live CD's for fiddling with it without a hard drive install. I use it for my 3 axis mill and it's the best thing out there that I've tried.

See: http://linuxcnc.org/

I've cut a lot of metal with it (and plastic, and wood), and it has never let me down.

Sheldon

There is ONE small problem... (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023511)

And it's not that we are no longer the Knights who say "Ni!". Seems to me that every robot project does something totally different. DARPA Grand Challenge is one exception. You can't easily apply vacuum technology to manipulator-arm technology to walking technology to machine-vision technology. It's not like the early computer world where everybody and their mother was writing a word-processor and a spreadsheet program. Hell, even now the world is fractured into the C++ programmers, the Java-wonks, and the goofy Objective-C geeks. But besides this, if you look at the embedded hardware world, you've got the x86 world and the ARM world in in there are a half-dozen different flavors of Linux and they're not well supported in a one-stop-shopping fashion.

Fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023619)

Fuck you Slashdot! What's your basis on excluding comments? I'm done with your shit.

Not a common BIOS, a common OS (2, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023699)

I have the distinct feeling that there is a misunderstanding of the intent of the article.

What is being called for is an SDK which will apply to a multitude of hardware platforms. Call it an OS, call it an API either way it isn't the BIOS equivalent aka firmware. The firmware manages the motors, turns on and off power to sensors, fans, power supplies, etc. Additionally you would have driver equivalents to provide base operating routines for specific modules of hardware ie: a "hand" driver would provide instructions telling the fingers of the hand to contract or extend. These are not things that need to be made common, nor can they. Certainly they would also benefit from a standardized methodology but that is not the topic today.

What is being called for is that the makers of the drivers and the firmware provide a common set of hooks as an abstraction layer and that some higher level OS be developed which knows about said abstraction layer and can interoperate with it, pass instructions to it and generally manage when and what the drivers or the firmware instruct the hardware to do.

This 3rd level of abstraction (firmware, drivers, OS) should have an Open SDK. Individual drivers may or may not be open - up to the manufacturer (think printers, video cards, etc) how much community support they feel will benefit their product.

With an Open SDK independent developers can write software for multiple hardware platforms potentially with several versions which take advantage of available hardware which is not universal.

So for example I could write a program that tells a robot how to perform a particular dance move. I'll call it the "electric slide" - my instructions will tell the robot to move forward 4 units, shake an appendage, move back 4 units shake, move forward 2 units hop or shake, slide left with some easing then start over. How the robot accomplishes this feat is up to it's drivers and firmware... tracks, wheels, 4 feet or 2 feet - but I could add in some checks to discover each type of mobility and enhance the movement routine to make each mobility type perform the movements with slight adjustments to add "character" to the dance.

Additionally my dance may need to be updated so I'll add in an update function which will download the latest version and prompt the owner to install it (never auto install). Each device may have it's own internet connection capability - some will have wifi, some 3G, some will connect through their base station while recharging and others may need a USB drive plugged in with the update. I shouldn't need to write my own TCP stack, WiFi handler, etc. my app just asks for an outside connection and the platform gives me back what is available.

Hopefully this has clarified something for someone.

In Related News (0, Flamebait)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023815)

Microsoft has announced its latest OS: Windows AI.

Sadly this thing is less stable than Charles Manson.

Days of computing past? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023841)

Back in the days before even MSDOS was around, let alone Windows, there was no standardization of the basic hardware of any computer, and in many cases there wasn't even anything remotely resembling a BIOS ROM (My IMSAI 8080 with a 6MHz Z80 CPU was an excellent example of this). Part of configuring an OS for a specific computer was writing basic I/O routines in assembly language, inserting it into the boot code and OS runtime code, and writing it to a disk you could actually (attempt to!) boot from. When the original IBM PC came around we started to see a standard for hardware -- which made writing an OS that would boot and run out of the box a reality. It seems to me that there is going to have to be some sort of standardization, at least in part, of robotic hardware before there can be a common robot OS.

Different OS's (4, Funny)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#29023889)

Microsoft Robot A.I.:
INPUT: Make me an omelet.
--Are you sure you would like an omelet? {YES / NO}
---MSROBOT is trying to access your refrigerator. {DENY / ALLOW}
----MSROBOT is trying to access your eggs. {DENY / ALLOW}
----MSROBOT has broken an egg and must be shut down. {Send Error Report / Exit}

Macintosh Robot A.I.:
INPUT: Make me an omelet.
-chord-
-outputs an eggwhite omelet made with organic cheese, soymeat, and fresh tomatoes.
INPUT: Add some sausage.
iROBOT: DID YOU KNOW? Sausage contains cholesterol and transfats, so iRobot does not support Sausage!


Linux Robot A.I.:
$ Make me an omelet.
make: *** No rule to make target 'me'. Stop.
$ ./createOmelet
Usage: createOmelet [omelet-options]
where omelet-options are -s (sausage), -c (cheese), etc.
$ ./createOmelet -s -c -p -t
roboTux: ...Compiling an omelet with Sausage, Cheese, Peppers, and Tomatoes!!!
roboTux: Cutting Sausage..
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: Cutting Sausage... DONE!
roboTux: Shredding Cheese...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ...
roboTux: ERROR: Unable to find CHEDDAR.CHEESE. Please consult your refrigerator administrator.

Premature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29023917)

Well, considering that standardized OS did not even become a remote reality until HARDWARE started to standardize, I'd say we're quite a ways out.

And the "Standardized" OS was really a huge pain in the ass, with special cases for every different piece of hardware. We still have the issue, but have mitigated it by the use of these things called "drivers".

Or in other words, you could just use Linux, Windoze, etc. for the OS, provided the hardware makers provide drivers for their pieces.

What the article is talking about, although they do not realize it, is actually NOT an OS, but simply an API or library set. There is no need to completely re-invent the whole OS, etc. just because of some new peripheral components.

don't forget to add in the OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29024135)

the following 3 laws:
1: Protect human life
2: obey orders from human when not in conflict with 1
3: protect yourself when not in conflict with 1 or 2 :-)

ho, and also put a NULL law 0 that does nothing to make sure that the slot never gets used, and use unsigned ints for counting to make sure that no law -1 gets created :-)

cyrille

TRON (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29024141)

While living in Tokyo, I standardized on TRON for all my robotic work.
I was not alone.

OO Coding for robots (1)

FriedPope (1164873) | more than 5 years ago | (#29024159)

As microcontrollers move into the object oriented programing world we're starting to see the emergence of reusable code. Many of the benefits of a standardized OS can be found in an object exchange like the one Parallax has set up for their Propeller Microcontroller. When developing a small line tracking robot for instance, you could download a servo control object and a light sensor object and join the two with the appropriate control logic to keep the robot on the line. That's a pretty simple scenario, objects exist in the parallax exchange to handle things like Kalman Filtering for autopilots or the bell 202 modem object for radio communications.
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