MOV.ai disrupts Autonomous Mobile Robot development with a Robotics Engine Platform that contains everything needed to quickly build, deploy and operate intelligent robots.
The dust is still settling from the news that hit the robotics community last week, and no, I don’t mean the news of our MOV.AI Flow™ release…
There are a lot of questions being raised at the moment about the impact of the OSRC acquisition by Intrinsic. You can read many of them, as well as some replies on the dedicated Q&A thread on ROS Discourse.
We’ll summarize the main points here, and offer MOV.AI’s analysis of the implications.
OSRC (Open Source Robotics Corporation) has been acquired by Intrinsic, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (aka Google).
OSRC is the commercial subsidiary OSRF, the non-profit body governing open-source ROS Gazebo and Open-RMF (hereafter referred to collectively as ROS). OSRC plays a major role in developing ROS and the robot development community both through contributions to the code and its roadmap and through its commercial consulting activities.
On the surface nothing has changed—one commercial company (that backs an open-source project) was purchased by another commercial company (who, by the way, happens to back many open-source projects).
But we all know that what lies beneath the surface is what counts.
One of the main concerns is that Intrinsic, being a subsidiary of a large corporation, may prioritize its needs over the needs and interests of the ROS community.
True, OSRC was also a commercial company, but ROS and open source were at its core—its key mission and purpose.
One of the interesting points made following the announcement was the need to productize ROS. While I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, it has been raising concerns within the community over the introduction of proprietary components that will take precedence over the Open source, or a shift towards a more closed-source model which would go against the open source principles that have been central to the success of ROS.
It’s no secret that OSRC personnel are active community members and key contributors to ROS. A key concern is that Intrinsic may prioritize its own products and projects over those of the larger ROS community. This could lead to a lack of support and resources for community-driven projects, stifling innovation and collaboration within the ROS ecosystem.
There is also the issue of sustainability. Many within the ROS community rely on the support and services provided by OSRC to sustain their work, and it is uncertain how Alphabet Intrinsic will handle these responsibilities. Will the company continue to provide the same level of support, or will it cut back in order to maximize profits?
While there are certainly valid concerns about how the acquisition of OSRC by Intrinsic will impact the ROS community, it is also important to consider the potential benefits that the acquisition could bring.
As a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Intrinsic has access to significant financial and technological resources that could be used to support the development and growth of ROS. This could lead to more robust and feature-rich versions of ROS, as well as increased support for community-driven projects.
As a large and well-known company, Alphabet Intrinsic has the power to bring more attention and exposure to ROS, potentially leading to wider adoption of the software by a variety of industries and organizations. This could also lead to more opportunities for collaboration and innovation within the ROS community.
It is also worth noting that Google and Intrinsic have a history of supporting and investing in open-source technology. While there are certainly valid concerns about how the acquisition will be handled, it is possible that Intrinsic will prioritize maintaining the open-source nature of ROS and supporting the needs and interests of the ROS community.
It is difficult to predict exactly how the acquisition of OSRC by Intrinsic will affect companies that build commercial products on top of ROS, as it will depend on how the acquisition is handled and the specific decisions and actions taken by Intrinsic. However, there are a few potential impacts that companies should be aware of.
Currently, OSRC provides a variety of support and services to companies using ROS, including training, consulting, and custom development. It is possible that Alphabet Intrinsic will change the pricing or availability of these services, potentially making them more expensive or less accessible for companies that build commercial products on top of ROS.
If Alphabet Intrinsic introduces proprietary components or moves towards a more closed-source approach, it could make it more difficult for companies to build commercial products on top of ROS. This would go against the open-source principles that have been central to the success of ROS and could negatively impact the sustainability and health of the ROS ecosystem.
Alphabet Intrinsic may prioritize its own products and projects over those of other companies. This could make it more difficult for companies to differentiate their products and stand out in the market.
Overall, it is important for companies building commercial products on top of ROS to be aware of these potential impacts and to closely monitor how the acquisition is handled by Alphabet Intrinsic.
As noted above, I couldn’t agree more that there is a need for productization and an enterprise-grade ROS-based platform
The industry needs a commercial, modern, easy-to-use ROS-based platform that will allow more people to join the robotics world and build robotics solutions. Not only the sophisticated robotics developers deserve to have all the fun.
This platform will enable scaling the robotics industry, so robot manufacturers would not need to reinvent the wheel, with security, testing, and other non-core but extremely important components of robot software development. Such a platform should support not only the development stage of a robot but also provide good deployment tools, stable run-time, and a way to share robotics behavior across the ecosystem.
That said, building such a platform is a long journey. A good platform should meet several criteria:
It is important to note that these are early days and any speculation is just that.
It remains to be seen how Intrinsic will handle the acquisition of OSRC and its role within the ROS community. One thing is clear – there is a sense of unease and uncertainty within the community. It will be important for Intrinsic to address these concerns and reassure the community that it is committed to maintaining the open-source nature and sustainability of ROS.