To the litany of reasons why you should support open source, make sure you add this: robots.

Today marks the third anniversary of ROS, Robotics Open Source. The robotics software project initially began as a collaboration between the STAIR project at Stanford and the Personal Robots Program at Willow Garage, and there are now over 50 public repositories and at least 50 robots using ROS in mobile manipulators, quadrotors, cars, boats, space rovers and more.

Most of the contributors to the open source project are universities, and research – in both the public and private sector – includes work in 3D perception, manipulation, cognitive robotics, mapping, and motion planning.

Participation in the project is growing exponentially, which bodes well for a healthy open source platform – and for the future of robotics. “One of the values of being open source,” reads the third anniversary ROS blog post, “is that it’s much easier to collaborate than compete. With so much great open source software out there, it’s wonderful that various robot software frameworks can build on each other’s strengths rather than forcing users to choose between them.”

In order to encourage its long-term development, ROS is weighing the formation of a foundation to support open source robotics and will also be implementing some new procedures for making and monitoring changes to ROS.