February 22, 2024 MoveIt Pro Open Core - Building and Supporting Ope

MoveIt Pro Open Core - Building and Supporting Open Source Software for the Future

by Nathan Brooks, CTO and Jonathan Fries, Director of Operations

PickNik has been, and continues to be, a major advocate for Open Source Software (OSS) for robotics - our company mission is to enable robotics companies through robust platforms for manipulation applications in real-world environments. We continue to believe that open source allows for more creativity, more productivity, and more robots in the world.

Our main approach for this has been to be the primary support for MoveIt (MoveIt OSS), an open source tool for robotic motion planning. Additionally, PickNik supports other open source software packages that are part of the ROS ecosystem - ROS 2 itself, ROS drivers, MoveIt Task Constructor, ROS Bridge, etc.

Why then would we create MoveIt Pro, a commercial product, as opposed to continuing to roll every new feature into MoveIt? There are a number of strategic reasons for this:

  1. Become a direct consumer of MoveIt OSS - PickNik supports MoveIt in a number of ways: financial support for maintenance and development, community and industry advocacy, and finding mutually beneficial ways to extend MoveIt with our clients. These we will continue to do. But we also believe that MoveIt will benefit from a dedicated PickNik product team being a direct customer, rather than an indirect customer through a client.

  2. Expand our ability to support MoveIt financially - There are two types of MoveIt improvements that have been difficult to fund with a traditional services funding model: deep refactoring work and new, large features. However, as the MoveIt Pro product install base grows, we’ll be able to expand our support for MoveIt OSS as well. This means a greater ability to do the development to take MoveIt to the next level.

  3. Address new needs of a maturing industry - As the robotics industry continues to mature it makes sense that PickNik and MoveIt need to mature and be able to execute on client needs more quickly. Not everything that would make a client project move quickly belongs in MoveIt OSS. MoveIt Pro is the home of a framework and tool kit focused on building, refining, and shipping manipulation applications.

  4. User Interface for Less Experienced Roboticists - MoveIt focuses on providing tools for advanced roboticists to develop motion planning for any robot. Simply put, there are not enough advanced roboticists to support the needs of the robotics market. For less experienced roboticists, Pro will provide visual tools for composing and debugging common manipulation tasks, with an emphasis on accessibility. These tools are expensive to develop and lack funding via traditional service models, but developing them now is critical to the future of commercial robotics.

MoveIt Pro will provide companies mature software for manipulation applications beyond the core capabilities provided by MoveIt OSS. Assigning value to robotics software is difficult, and there are more examples of sustainable open-core businesses than pure open-source businesses. We believe a combination of MoveIt OSS and MoveIt Pro is the best way to grow both projects.