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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Courtesy of Brian Gerkey

Brian Gerkey, 34

A common language for robots

Willow Garage

PROBLEM: People who want to program robots have had to either write software from scratch or purchase proprietary software that is hard to modify.

SOLUTION: Brian Gerkey has developed open-source platforms, called Player and ROS, that standardize the basic software used to control a robot. Both have been adopted by thousands of companies, universities, and governments around the world.

Gerkey believes the software will allow entrepreneurs to create new commercial applications for robots even if they don't have extensive robotics expertise. The goal is to help "people who have ideas for what robots can do in the marketplace," he says. Much of the development of ROS is happening at Willow Garage, a robot technology incubator, where Gerkey is the director of open-source development. The first full version of ROS, which can handle more complex robots than Player, was released in 2010. By encouraging the adoption of ROS, Willow Garage is also increasing the market for its own robots, which it hopes will become the de facto hardware standard for would-be robot entrepreneurs. —Kristina Grifantini

2011 TR35 Winners

Pieter Abbeel (video)

Robots that learn from people

June Andronick (video)

Software that can’t crash

Jernej Barbič (video)

Speeding up simulations of complex objects

Dan Berkenstock (video)

Cheaper satellite pictures

Brian Gerkey (video)

A common language for robots

Jeff Hammerbacher (video)

Managing huge data sets

Gert Lanckriet (video)

Teaching computers to classify music

Alina Oprea (video)

Guaranteeing cloud security

Aishwarya Ratan (video)

Converting paper records to digital in real time

Noah Snavely (video)

Synthesizing 3-D models from 2-D photographs

Piya Sorcar (video)

Software that can be localized to teach taboo topics

Kun Zhou

Creating movie-quality graphics in real time


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