Surprise! Open Robotics got acquired by Google’s Intrinsic

Last week the news broke that Intrinsic, an Alphabet (Google) company, acquired the Open Source Robotics Corporation (OSRC), makers of ROS 2. ROS 2 is an open source middleware for programming robots, and by now probably the most successful platform for this. The previous owner of OSRC was the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), an non-profit organization, which has now been mostly emptied out except for a few remaining staff. ROS 2, the software, is open-source software and communally owned, so it will remain accessible.

In the best case, Intrinsic only acquired the OSRC for the capabilities of its people and will allow the OSRF to grow into a proper open source foundation that provides a fair and equal playing field for anyone interested in the software it holds trademarks in.

In the worst case, Intrinsic will use the positions of its new employees to control ROS 2 and its development to gain a handle on everyone using ROS 2 in research and advance development (its current sweet spot). This would most certainly stifle if not kill ROS 2 long-term.

Intrinsic (Google) is too smart for both cases, so in my book it is most likely to play good open source citizen for a while, and will make sure that whatever Intrinsic has brewing integrates nicely with ROS 2. Its competitors, however, will be kept a step behind in terms of ROS 2 interoperability and integration.

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