UPDATED: According to Willow Garage’s blog, the company will not shut down, but change its funding model:
Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model.
The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics.
The decision to close down Willow Garage was announced last Friday, according to the report. Though the Menlo Park-based lab has not yet confirmed the news, IEEE Spectrum notes that much of the income generated by Willow Garage products is actually made by Willow spin-offs, like the Open Source Robotics Foundation, Industrial Perception, hiDOF, and Suitable Technologies.
If Willow Garage does indeed shut down for good, it’ll be a big loss for the personal robotics field. In December, the San Jose Mercury interviewed two of the lab’s research scientists, Kaijen Hsiao and Matei Ciocarlie, about their project Robots for Humanity, which seeks to improve the lives of severely disabled people. Achievements included working with a quadriplegic man to control a PR2 and have it perform simple tasks in his home. The TurtleBot, another one of Willow Garage’s creations, is a low-cost, personal robotics kit with open-source software that was designed for educational and research purposes.
Willow Garage has been emailed for comment.