ROS, the open source robotics OS, is accelerating development in robotics because scientists don’t have to reinvent everything from scratch:

As an example of how ROS works, imagine you’re building an app. That app is useless without hardware and software – that is, your computer and operating system. Before ROS, engineers in different labs had to build that hardware and software specifically for every robotic project. As a result, the robotic app-making process was incredibly slow – and done in a vacuum.  

Now ROS, along with complementary robot prototypes, provide that supporting hardware and software. Robot researchers can shortcut straight to the app building. And since other researchers around the world are using the same tools, they can easily share their developments from one project to another. 

I wrote a similar article last year about how we should expect to see an acceleration in both AI and robotics due to this effect. The remaining barrier to participation is cost:

The reason we haven’t seen even greater amateur participation in robotics and AI, up until this point, has been because of the cost: whether it’s the $400,000 to buy a PR2, or $3 million dollars to replicate IBM’s Watson. This too is about to change.

It’s about to change because cost of electronics declines quickly: by 2025, the same processing capacity it takes to run Watson will be available to us in a general purpose personal computer. Robotics hardware might not decrease in cost as quickly as pure silicon would, but it will surely come down. When it hits the price of a car ($25,000), I’m sure we’ll see hobbyists with them.

PR2 fetches a beer from the fridge