Open Source Lessons from the World of AI


In an EE Times article published Thursday, Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics professor Olivier Sigaud calls open source "an open faucet in the desert" when it comes to artificial intelligence.


I know a lot of open source enthusiasts tend to wax philosophical when they discuss (debate, argue, evangelize... take your pick) the community development method, but I have never heard it described so poetically. I had to read on.


Much like enterprise software that is built on open source, robots that are built on open systems facilitate collaboration in that they can be shared with and improved upon by other researchers. That's why robotics academics love open source AI. Even though open source robots are nothing new, a new European Commission-funded research robot, called the iCub, breaks new ground in that its hardware and software are open source, the story says:

Whether the researchers build better cognitive architectures, learning algorithms, sensors or limbs, once their work has been proved..., it can be shared and used to improve the next generation of machines.

Another professor, Giorgio Metta at the Italian Institute of Technology, says he sees only advantages to using open source in AI development. Metta also admits:


"I may be too enthusiastic about it."


But at least one of his colleagues takes that enthusiasm a step further. Oskar von Stryk, at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, says open source is the only way:

Modularity and reusability are required to enable the technological evolution of autonomous robots. This is only possible with open software and hardware modules that enable an unlimited number of researchers and developers to share their particular contributions.

As modularity and reusability become more important to enterprise software users and buyers, open source will likewise become even more important to software vendors.