It isn't hard to get behind a company like Willow Garage, who not only has enough funding to invest heavily in building on ROS, an open source Robotics Operating System that's gaining traction in the robotics community, but also managed to dig up enough spare change to give away $4.4 million in robots to a few lucky research institutions. There were 11 schools selected to receive the Willow Garage-developed PR2 Beta, which stuffs some very high end sensors, two articulated arms, and sixteen CPU cores on top of a rolling base -- providing a lot of leg room for advanced functionality. Of course, in the world of robots, "advanced" means stuff like opening doors and not running over your cat, but with a common code base to work from and all this fancy hardware, hopefully these schools will manage to push the industry along a bit during the next two years that the PR2 Beta Program lasts.

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Willow Garage starts shipping its PR2 Beta Program bots: get ready for ROS-powered hijinks