Back in February, we brought you the story of Willow Garage Robotics’ PR2 Beta Program. California-based Willow Garage is giving PR2 robots to ten deserving robotics development groups, to program and customize as they wish. In exchange, those groups will enter all of their research data into an open-source software platform, so other robotics designers can learn from their successes and failures. Now, we’ve received word that a similar project is in the works in Europe. Led by the Eindhoven University of Technology, six research institutes are developing a collective worldwide online memory for robots, wherein robots can learn from each other's capabilities, thus streamlining the process of adopting new operations.

Called RoboEarth, it is designed to help robots adapt their pre-programmed tasks to unfamiliar new situations and settings. A robot programmed to lift stationary boxes off the floor, for instance, might be able to learn from the programming of a robot that lifts moving boxes off a conveyor belt - this would save the time and trouble of reprogramming the first robot from scratch, and allow it to circumvent the accompanying period of trial and error.

The other institutions involved in the development of RoboEarth are Philips Applied Technologies, the University of Stuttgart, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Spain’s University of Zaragoz and Germany’s Technische Universität München. The project, funded by the European Commission, will take four years and has a budget of €5.6 million (US$7.45 million.)