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Robotics lab Willow Garage faces uncertain future amid reports of shutdown

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On Monday, IEEE Spectrum reported that Willow Garage, the Silicon Valley-based robotics company behind the PR2 personal robot, will be closing its doors within the "next few months." Current and former Willow Garage employees told IEEE Spectrum that the decision was announced internally on Friday, but the company initially declined to comment. Late Monday night, however, president and CEO Steve Cousins published a statement to Willow's blog, saying that the company has decided to "enter the world of commercial opportunities," marking "an important change to our funding model."

Cousins went on to say that the PR2 personal robot and ROS open source platform would continue to receive support, though according to IEEE Spectrum, he stopped short of directly refuting the claims made by internal sources. It remains unclear whether the changes to the company's funding model will entail the kind of drastic changes previously reported. Earlier, IEEE Spectrum said that current employees "will be moving on," and that Willow (or Willow as we know it) will soon "cease to exist."

We reached out to Willow Garage for comment, but were directed to the company's statement, reproduced below. We will continue to investigate this story, and will provide updates as they come in.

Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model.

The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics.

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