waderoush writes "If you visit Menlo Park, CA-based Willow Garage, you'll meet a $400,000 humanoid robot called PR2 that has stereo vision, a pair of dextrous arms, and enough smarts to roam the building indepedently and even plug itself into the wall when it needs to recharge. But in a sense, PR2 is just a demo. The real action at Willow Garage is around ROS, the Robot Operating System, a free meta-operating system that's already being used by hundreds of roboticists around the world and may soon be handed over to an independent foundation analogous to the Apache Software Foundation. Brian Gerkey, Willow Garage's head of open source development, says 'What we need is a LAMP stack for robotics,' and hopes that ROS will jumpstart innovation in robotics in the same way Linux and other free software components provided the foundation for the Internet boom. Today's roboticists 'have to come at the problem with a very deep expertise in all aspects of robotics, from state estimation to planning to perception, which automatically limits the number of people capable of building new things,' Gerkey says. 'But by providing a basic toolset analogous to the LAMP stack, we can get to a point where all you need to know is how to write code and what you want your robot to do.'"