Robots don’t have to have arms or wheels, any system that senses its environment, uses intelligence to make decisions and acts is a robot, and at Robot Garden, we want to make the whole building a robot.
The Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) maintains a very useful software framework for creating robotic systems called ROS or the Robot Operating System. A ROS application is build from nodes which implement specific functions such as controlling servos, reading raw data from a sensor or interpreting that data. Because each node is self contained, they can be reused between applications or even different robots. With ROS, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel if someone else has already created a node for it. Clearpath Robotics recently started a nice intro tutorial series for ROS, in addition to the documentation on the ROS website. We’re also planning an intro to ROS class series at Robot Garden.
Another feature of ROS is that each node can run on a different computer and as long as they are networked together, intelligence can be built using all the pieces. So setting up a intelligent space, one process can be running on a Raspberry Pi, another on a server and another on a networked Arduino and ROS ties them all together.
Our building automation software for Robot Garden and some of our own homes, is a growing collection of ROS nodes (see our GitHub page) that we are calling BOS for building operating system. We are starting with sensors and cameras, eventually adding our access control system and hoping to build something both useful and cool. Stephen Dawson-Haggerty’s talk at USENIX 2013 under almost the same moniker, BOSS: Building Operating Systems and Services, covers some of the potential and challenges for making buildings into robots.