10 Memorable ROS-based Robots

The Robot Operating System (ROS) turns 10 today. To celebrate, we take a look at 10 memorable ROS-based robots throughout the years.

Happy Birthday to the Robot Operating System (ROS), which turns 10 years old today! ROS, of course, is a collection of software tools and libraries used by robot programmers for developing applications.

The growth of the open-source community has been rather astounding. Here’s an excerpt from the ROS birthday blog:

“On this date in 2007 the first commit was made to the ROS project on SourceForge.

“Since then, ROS has grown from that first public commit to over 200000 commits made by more than 2800 individuals from around the world. These contributions have built up to over 4.5 million significant lines of code which - following standard development effort estimators - would take 169 full time developers 8.5 years.”

ROS will continue to develop and help create new robots and applications, of course. But we thought it’d be fun to celebrate with a look at 10 memorable robots that use ROS. There are a bunch of great robots that didn’t make our list, so please share your thoughts with us in the comments. Here, in no particular order, are our picks.

STanford Artificial Intelligence Robot (STAIR)

OK, so STAIR technically didn’t use ROS, but STAIR was where it all started in 2006. The Stanford University mobile manipulation research platform was built off the the predecessor of ROS. STAIR was designed to navigate home and office environments, pick up and interact with objects and tools, and intelligently interact with and help people in these environments.

STAIR 1 featured a Neuronics Katana Arm, a Segway base, and an array that included a custom laser-line scanner, Hokuyo laser range finder, Axis PTZ, and more. According to its creators, STAIR was built using “methods drawn from all areas of AI, including machine learning, vision, navigation, manipulation, planning, reasoning, and speech/natural language processing. This is in distinct contrast to the 30-year trend of working on fragmented AI sub-fields, and will be a vehicle for driving research towards true integrated AI.”

Personal Robot 2 (PR2)

The PR2 is the robotics research and development platform created by Willow Garage. The PR2, which was first sold to institutions in 2010 for $400,000, consisted of an omni-directional based equipped with two 7-DOF arms with a payload of 1.8 kilograms. The PR2 also had two on-board servers, LIDAR, inertial measurement unit, and other devices.

There’s a bunch of videos of the PR2 out there, but below is one of our favorites. “The PR2 won’t be hustling you in pool halls anytime soon,” the team pointed out in 2010, but this was quite an accomplishment for the time.

Rethink Robotics’ Baxter

Introduced in 2012, the Baxter collaborative robot was the first commercial robot to use ROS. And it’s been maximizing efficiency and decreasing costs in both manufacturing and production facilities ever since. Here’s a fun 2013 video of Baxter brewing coffee with a Keurig.

Robonaut 2

Perhaps the coolest of all ROS-based robots, Robonaut 2 (R2) was developed in a partnership between NASA and General Motors designed to see how manipulation robots behave in space. R2 was the inspiration for NASA’s Valkyrie robot, which is also called the R5.

Savioke Relay

Steve Cousins, founder and CEO of Savioke, has been one of the biggest advocates of the open-source robotics movement. Prior to founding Savioke, Cousins was president and CEO of Willow Garage, overseeing ROS, PR2, and TurtleBot. So it’s no surprise Savioke’s Relay autonomous delivery robot is built on ROS.

Founded in 2013, Savioke initially rolled out Relay at high-end hotels delivering items to guests, but it has recently started making its way to luxury apartment complexes, logistics and manufacturing firms, and hospitals. Savioke also recently announced it’s starting a pilot with Walt Disney World resorts.


RBR50 company Fetch Robotics also has close ties to ROS. Melonee Wise (CEO), Michael Ferguson (CTO), David Robson (Chief of Staff), and others, all spent time at Willow Garage working on ROS. So, again, no surprise that Fetch has based its robots on ROS. Here’s a video of Fetch robots working at DHL partner Wärtsilä.


TurtleBot is a low-cost, personal robot kit that uses ROS. TurtleBot was created at Willow Garage by Wise and Tully Foote in November 2010. With TurtleBot, you’ll be able to build a robot that can drive around your house, see in 3D, and have enough horsepower to create exciting applications. The TurtleBot 3 was introduced earlier in 2017.

Atlas, DRC Version

Out of the 23 teams that competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in 2015, 18 used ROS to help run their robots.

Marvin Autonomous Car

There have been other autonomous cars that ran ROS, but Marvin from the University of Texas at Austin was the first. The modified 1999 Isuzu VehiCross competed in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, but it was one of five teams that didn’t finish the race. It was, however, able to complete many of the difficult tasks, including merging, U-turns, intersections, and parking.

Clearpath Robotics’ Grizzly

Introduced in 2013, Grizzly is designed for agriculture, mining and defense robotics research programs. Grizzly is an ATV-sized robotic platform built to perform like a tractor with the precision of an industrial robot. It can pull a plow, carry a massive 600 kg payload, and mount a wide range of standard utility vehicle accessories.

Here’s a 2015 video of Grizzly towing a 737 airplane because, well, why not.


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