Two of the four robots inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame on Oct. 23 ran embedded Linux. Aldebaran Robotics' humanoid, partially open source Nao robot, known for its use in RoboCup robot soccer competitions, won in the Education & Consumer category. And iRobot's PackBot remote sensing robot, which runs proprietary Linux, took the Industrial & Service award.
Linux is not yet a major force in the multi-million dollar industrial robot market, where proprietary real-time operating systems (RTOSes) are the norm. But for more than a decade it has enjoyed a growing presence in service, research and consumer robots. These have ranged from hobbyist and educational humanoid robots, to NASA rovers, to unmanned automated vehicles (UAVs).
Typically, a Linux computer is added when a robot requires higher level functions. Linux often orchestrates audio/visual synthesis, WiFi communications, and in some cases sensor inputs, while a secondary microcontroller computer often handles motor controls.
Linux is increasingly used in conjunction with open source robotic middleware OSes, especially Willow Garage's up-and-coming Robot Operating System (ROS), which can also be controlled by desktop Linux software. The Linux/ROS combo appears to be a rising force in robotics, including many industrial applications.
The following slideshow covers 10 notable Linux robots of recent, or recently updated, vintage. Yet, there are scores of other interesting Linux robots out there in various stages of maturity, ranging from telepresence robots to open source hobbyist projects. Open board projects like BeagleBoard.org, and more recently the Raspberry Pi have spun off numerous Linux-based robots, including the BeagleBone-based OpenROV underwater robot.
Recently, we've seen a number of robots that use Android or iOS as the higher-level computer, often simply by attaching a phone or tablet that runs a robot-controlling app. Meanwhile, the Android Open Accessory Project technology has inspired some Android robots that incorporate Arduino microcontrollers.
Let the robot show begin by pressing View Gallery below: