If you are not familiar with Willow Garage’s PR2 robot, you should make an effort to do some searches and find out more. It's a fantastic idea.
Basically, Willow Garage designed a very sophisticated robot with lots of features and then gave about a dozen of them away to worthy organizations. The software is open source, so the lucky recipients could program the robot to do anything they wanted. There have been groups who have programmed it to fold clothes, fetch beer, plug itself into an outlet to charge up the batteries, and countless other tasks. All the big robotic sites feature articles on the robot all the time.
Click here to see some of the videos on YouTube.
The robot itself is a major milestone, but the concept of building a sophisticated robot and letting many groups develop the software independently is the truly innovative idea. Rather than a large corporation selfishly hoarding the information, these groups share ideas that were developed and then bring them together. That will make this concept race ahead of the competitors. It is absolutely one of the best ideas ever.
Here is one of the latest videos..
Oh, and by the way, you can purchase your own for $400,000. I’ll take two.
As I was working on MARVIN, I started to notice a few similarities between MARVIN and PR2. Obviously, the software was open source plus it could be programmed in any NXT compatible language. The robot had tons of features like twenty-five motors and over thirty sensors. The robot could be programmed to do an infinite amount of tasks within limits. The nice thing MARVIN was that not only the software was open source, but so was the hardware. I still had open motor and sensor ports, so you could easily add or take away features. Looking back, I think it would have been awesome to let some other Mindstormers teach him some stuff.