Now that Rockwell Automation’s acquisition of Clearpath Robotics and OTTO Motors is complete (at one thing like $600 million, according to one source), it’s extra essential than ever to get at the very least some understanding of what the long run holds for these iconic yellow and black analysis robots. And it’s not nearly their robots, both: Clearpath Robotics was one of many authentic champions of the Robot Operating System (ROS), and the corporate has supplied a large quantity of help to the ROS community over the previous decade.
On the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2023) in Detroit earlier this month, we spoke with Clearpath Robotics co-founder Ryan Gariepy to get a greater sense of the place issues are headed for Clearpath Robotics.
IEEE Spectrum: Now that you’re a part of Rockwell, what’s staying the identical?
Ryan Gariepy, Clearpath Robotics: Each Clearpath Robotics and OTTO Motors are nonetheless very a lot in existence. We’re nonetheless working with our personal roadmaps, and Rockwell Automation has a want to maintain these manufacturers round. We plan to maintain the enduring Clearpath colours. Principally, we’re going to proceed enterprise as ordinary. As a lot as I respect folks’s concern, we do intend to proceed constructing this for the long-term.
“We’re now in a world the place one of many largest industrial automation firms has determined that robotics is a strategic curiosity. We predict there will probably be loads of issues that the robotics analysis neighborhood will probably be enthusiastic about.”
—Ryan Gariepy, Clearpath Robotics
What’s going to be totally different?
Gariepy: We anticipate with the ability to take bigger dangers, with extra of a long-term view on a few of our services. Rockwell additionally has established world scale in gross sales, deployment, help, provide chain, every little thing. It’ll actually enable us to focus far more on what we’re good at, reasonably than having to decide on between product growth and operations.
Rockwell presently does loads of stuff which is peripheral to the robotics neighborhood. They’re a worldwide chief in movement management, in sensing, in security—these are issues that could possibly be of nice curiosity. I feel any long-time researcher will keep in mind the times when sensor producers didn’t even help utilizing their sensors on robots, and also you needed to reverse-engineer these protocols your self. However we’re now in a world the place one of many largest industrial automation firms has determined that robotics is a strategic curiosity. We predict there will probably be loads of issues that the robotics analysis neighborhood will probably be enthusiastic about.
What about long-term help for current Clearpath analysis robots?
Gariepy: If something, an organization like Rockwell offers us extra stability reasonably than much less stability. They’re used to supporting their merchandise for much longer than us—the oldest Huskies are developing on 12 or 13 years previous. Rockwell has merchandise which have been available on the market for 20 years that they’re nonetheless supporting, so that they very a lot respect that. I do know that for lots of researchers, it looks like Clearpath Robotics has been round endlessly, however we’ve solely been round for 14 years. Rockwell has been round for 120 years.
What about Turtlebot?
Gariepy: TurtleBot 5 could be a future roadmap dialogue, and that’s extra within the palms of Open Robotics than Clearpath Robotics. We do love the Turtlebot, we’re constructing as many Turtlebots as we probably can, and we’ve a long-term settlement with Open Robotics to proceed the Turtlebot partnership. That settlement continues.
How does Rockwell really feel about ROS?
Gariepy: Rockwell desires to work extra with ROS, and has positively been excited by the management that we’ve with the ROS neighborhood. There are loads of issues that we’ve been speaking about on the right way to construct on this, however I can’t actually get into any particulars. Truthfully, it is because there are such a lot of good concepts we’ve, that even with this bigger firm, I don’t have the folks to drag every little thing off proper now.
Once more, it wasn’t that a few years in the past whenever you couldn’t get an API for a manipulator arm in order that you could possibly even use it, a lot much less have the producer of that arm help ROS themselves. Issues have modified considerably, and now you might have an organization like Rockwell changing into very excited concerning the potential within the ROS neighborhood.
Clearpath Robotics has in fact solely ever been one a part of the ROS neighborhood—an essential half, actually, however the continued success of ROS has (we hope) grown past what could be occurring at anyone firm. It’s a bit worrisome that a number of different essential components of the ROS neighborhood, together with Fetch Robotics and Open Robotics, have additionally been acquired comparatively not too long ago. So with all this in thoughts, we’ll be at ROSCon in New Orleans later this week to try to get a greater sense of how the neighborhood feels about the way forward for ROS.
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