Robot designing and building benefits greatly from common operating platforms, where different teams of designers can build on others work. Currently there exists quite a few operating systems, that have found use in many different applications and locations. See Robotic Magazine software page for a list that summarizes major systems. However, a common operating system such as windows for computers is not yet there for robotics. Therefore, a great amount of useful work which has been done on one robot, can not easily be transferred into building another robot. For example, teaching one robot how to balance, based on the knowledge from building another robot, is not as easy as it seems, or a person working on visual recognition usually needs to pay attention to wheel motion as well. The main problem is sharing the code.
In an attempt to overcome this issue, scientists at Stanford University, MIT, and the technical university of Munich among many others have been working hard to come up with such a system. They call their system as ROS, which stands for Robot Operating System. When completed this will not be the only operating system around, as mentioned above, however, it sure is one of the greatest efforts to do so.
See video from Newscientistbelow.