Nvidia and Qualcomm join Open Source Robotics Alliance to support ROS development

The Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) this week announced the launch of the similarly named Open Source Robotics Alliance (OSRA). The new initiative is designed to maintain development for and maintenance of open source robotics projects, with a particular focus on the OSRF’s own robot operating system (ROS).

First released in 2007 by erstwhile Bay Area incubator Willow Garage, ROS has played a foundational role in robotics development for decades. In a show of support, Nvidia and Qualcomm have both signed on as “Platinum” members for the new alliance, along with Alphabet's X spinout Intrinsic.

“Nvidia develops with ROS 2 to bring accelerated computing and AI to developers, researchers, and commercial applications,” Nvidia VP Gordon Grigor notes in a release tied to the news. “As an inaugural platinum member of OSRA, we will collaborate to advance open-source robotics throughout the ecosystem by aiding development efforts and providing governance and continuity.”

In the same release, Intrinsic CEO Wendy Tan White notes, “From the numerous contributions made by our team at Intrinsic across projects like ROS, Gazebo, and Open-RMF as part of the Open Robotics community, to our acquisition of the Open Source Robotics Corporation (OSRC), we’ve invested deeply in the open source community, and we look forward to continuing our support of the ecosystem as an inaugural member of the OSRA."

Intrinsic acquired Open Robotics' commercial wing at the tail end of 2022. Former Open Robotics CEO Brian Gerkey (who current serves as Intrinsic's CTO) has been appointed to the OSRA's board of directors.

As far as the hierarchy is concerned, this seems to be standard tech industry consortium stuff. The OSRF calls it a “a mixed membership and meritocratic model,” in the vein of open source alliances like the Linux Foundation. Of course, the level or meritocratic presentation depends on the level of membership an organization commits to — though pricing notably goes up based on headcount.

Along with ROS, the OSRA is tasked with governing Open Robotics’ Gazebo simulator, and Open-RMF, which is designed to serve as a common language to increase robotic system interoperability across companies. Certainly the inclusion of tech behemoths like Nvidia and Qualcomm should go a ways toward helping cement such standards. Both companies are involved in the creation of reference design robots, which serve as the foundation for various robot makers.

Other members include Clearpath and PickNik Robotics. Silicon Valley Robotics is serving as an associate member, while Ubuntu developer Canonical is serving in a support role.