I’ve got some exciting news to share!
But first, some terminology: By now I am sure you have seen me correct someone and say we’re “Open Robotics,” not “OSRF;” and this distinction is important for understanding the nature of this post. The reason we call the organization Open Robotics is that it is actually the combination of OSRF, the Foundation, a non-profit that holds the ROS, Gazebo, and Open-RMF intellectual property, and its for-profit subsidiary Open-Source Robotics Corporation (OSRC).This arrangement exists to protect the ROS, Gazebo and Open-RMF intellectual property in a non-profit, while still allowing the Open Source Robotics Corporation to engage in paid work to support our open-source projects.
Now, the news: Today we’re happy to announce that the Open Source Robotics Corporation (OSRC) team is joining Intrinsic, the robotics software and AI company that is part of the Alphabet family of companies. OSRF and Open Robotics, and by proxy, ROS, Gazebo, and Open-RMF, will remain as an independent nonprofit organization. We’ve outlined all the organizational and structural details in a separate blog post which you can find here. We understand that this announcement may come as a bit of a surprise, but we believe it will allow the project to grow faster, and will also allow us to make some organizational changes that benefit the entire community. To understand why, I’ll first describe what’s happening and then discuss why these changes are beneficial to the community.
For starters, this new arrangement isn’t particularly new. OSRF, the Foundation, will still be in charge of the open-source intellectual property, project governance, growing the ROS, Gazebo and Open-RMF communities, and continuing with its mission, just like before. OSRF will be the administrator of the Github organizations, continue running the project websites (ros.org, gazebosim.org, Discourse, Answers, etc), putting together ROSCon, and developing the TurtleBot. Basically, if it is an open-source tool or project it will stay with the Foundation. Vanessa Yamzon Orsi, the current Open Robotics CFO will serve as the OSRF CEO, with Geoffrey Biggs as CTO. The name “Open Robotics’’ will also live on as a brand under the direction of the Foundation. The OSRF team will lead the transition to a more participatory and durable governance structure for the projects, similar to that found in The Cloud Native Computing Foundation and other projects under the The Linux Foundation. OSRF will be working closely with the membership of the ROS 2 Technical Steering Committee to create this new structure.
The OSRC team, as Intrinsic employees, will continue to be involved in the development of ROS, Gazebo and Open-RMF as contributors alongside the many developers worldwide who work to improve the projects. From the community’s perspective, the team will continue writing features, fixing issues, merging pull requests, making releases, and generally contributing to the projects day to day. We will have dedicated bandwidth to work on core ROS packages, Gazebo, and Open-RMF.
Intrinsic’s mission is to “democratize access to robotics.” That sounds an awful lot like OSRF’s own mission, to “support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development.” Just like OSRF and its community, Intrinsic believes that an essential way to achieve this goal is through supporting a strong open-source robotics community; and they are making a big bet that accelerating the development of the ROS community is the right way to get there.
You may be asking yourself, “why are we making these changes?” The short answer is that we think this arrangement is in the best interest of the projects, the user community, and the robotics industry. We believe that this approach will accelerate the development of the projects while simultaneously improving engagement with our user communities. For example, the new governance model will allow OSRF to more easily engage with companies and other organizations that are contributing to the projects. And, having divested of its commercial arm, the Foundation will be able to focus more clearly on the outreach and educational aspects of its charitable mission.
All three projects have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, transitioning from their humble roots as a set of shared tools used by researchers, to projects that power many of the robots people encounter in their daily lives. We realized that we can’t continue to support this burgeoning community on our own, and that we need a philosophically aligned and well-resourced partner. We are excited to have found in Intrinsic such a partner, with “the right stuff” to help us take our open source software and our community to the next level.
While the next few months may come with growing pains, some things don’t change. ROS 2 Iron Irwini will ship next May on World Turtle Day, and Gazebo H will ship next September. If we do this right, we’ll see features and capabilities in the ROS 2 J Turtle release in 2024 that otherwise wouldn’t have been ready until M Turtle.
You can read Intrinsic’s announcement here. Intrinsic aims to democratize access to robotics by building a robotics software and AI platform for developers, entrepreneurs and businesses. When we learned about their mission and how they were using ROS and Gazebo to pursue it, we knew we had an ideal fit. As Torsten, the CTO of Intrinsic, told us the other day, “The top priority for the OSRC team is to nurture and grow the ROS community." We’re excited for this next chapter, and even more excited about the opportunity to continue improving all of our platforms.
While the business arrangement has been finalized, a change like this takes time. We will be grateful for the community’s patience while the team transitions between organizations. It’s a big next step for our team and the community, and we don’t have every detail finalized. But in the meantime, you can assume business as usual. Updates will go out, working group meetings will take place, the build farm will generate packages, and email addresses will resolve. When things do change, rest assured that they’ll be happening on behalf of the Foundation and in full view of the community.
We know you have questions about this new arrangement, and we want to answer those questions as best we can. As you can imagine, today is also a very busy day, so we may not be able to get you a response immediately. So we have created a second thread where you can ask questions and the Intrinsic and OSRF teams will work to provide answers.