A Robotics Startup Without a Timetable

Focus is on research, not profits

The personal robot has a new benefactor. A Silicon Valley startup called Willow Garage is developing both the hardware and software for domestic robots and autonomous cars. But it's not making promises about Rosie the Robot rolling through your living room by 2030. The company, founded by an early Google employee, is focused on research, not profits.

As a result, Willow Garage sounds more like a university environment, but without the administrative and teaching responsibilities. In other words, every researcher's dream. The company is already working on self-driving boats (a section of which is pictured at left) and a Ford Hybrid that steers itself. Willow is also partnering with Stanford's Computer Science Lab and developing the PR2, the next generation of a Stanford-built personal assistance robot.

You've got to love that Google money.—Gregory Mone