Announcing the release v0.6 of RAPP Platform and RAPP API

From Manos Tsardoulias

We are happy to announce the v0.6 version of RAPP Platform and RAPP API, oriented to provide an online platform for delivering ready-to-use generic cloud services to robots!

The changes in comparison to v0.5.5 follow:

  • RAPP Platform Web services now support authentication via a tokens mechanism

  • Several new functionalities were introduced in the form of ROS nodes along with the respectful API web calls. These include object recognition via a Caffe wrapper (http://caffe.berkeleyvision.org/), e-mail management, geolocator, hazard detection in a household environment (detects if lights were left on or doors open), human detection, news explorer, path planning and a weather reporter.

  • Web services: Introduced a framework developed on-top of hop.js for easily implementing Web Services (documenation)

  • Python Platform API was refactored, supporting high level API and advanced API implementations, as well as static request and response objects.

  • RAPP Platform Wiki has been updated with the current description of all nodes, including full tutorials on how to create a new functionality, a new web service or even robotic applications.

  • RAPP Platform scripts (installation and deployment) were transferred in a separate repository

You can download a ready-to-launch VM containing the RAPP Platform v0.6 from here. Furthermore RAPP Platform v0.6 is already publicly launched in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki premises. You can find more information on how to invoke its cloud services here.

Links of interest:

RAPP is a 3-year research project (2013-2016) funded by the European Commission through its FP7 programme, which provides an open source software platform to support the creation and delivery of robotic applications. Its technical objectives include the development of an infrastructure for developers of robotic applications, so they can easily build and include machine learning and personalization techniques to their applications, the creation of a repository from which robots can download Robotic Applications (RApps) and upload useful monitoring information, as well as developing a methodology for knowledge representation and reasoning in robotics and automation. More information on RAPP can be found at http://rapp-project.eu/.

New Package PlotJuggler

From Davide Faconti

I would like to announce PlotJuggler, a Qt based application that allows the user to load, search and plot data. Many ROS user would use MATLAB or rqt_plot for this purpose, but these solutions might be frustrating to use when the data to be analyzed is considerably large.

PlotJuggler is meant to be a better alternative to rqtplot and rqtbag, providing a more user friendly interface.

Features:

  • Multiplot: add multiple curves to a plot. Arrange plots in rows, columns, tabs and/or separate windows.

  • Zoom: easily zoom a plot. You can lock the X axis of all of the plots.

  • Save/Load layouts: one you have organized your layout, you can save it on a file to be reused later.

  • Complete Undo/Redo: CTRL-Z does what you would expect it to do.

  • DataLoad plugins: easily load CSV or rosbags.

  • DataStreaming plugins: subscribe to one or multiple ros topic(s) and plot their data live.

  • RosPublisher plugin: re-publish the original ROS messages using the interactive tracker.

You can get a first impression of how PlotJuggler works here

PlotJuggler: a desktop application to plot time series. from Davide Faconti on Vimeo.

PlotJuggler: live streaming of a ROS Topic from Davide Faconti on Vimeo.

PlotJuggler: loading and re-publishing messages from ROS bags from Davide Faconti on Vimeo.

PlotJuggler is still in its "alpha" stage and under heavy development. I would like to get some feedback from the community to understand how this tool need to evolve.

You can find the code here: https://github.com/facontidavide/PlotJuggler

NOTE: you will also need this package too https://github.com/facontidavide/rostypeintrospection

Celebrating 9 Years of ROS!

This year marks the occasion of ROS turning 9 years old! Through these years ROS has grown into a strong world-wide community. It's a community with a large variety of interests: from academic researchers to robotic product developers as well as the many robot users. Academic use of ROS continues to grow. Citations of the first ROS paper "ROS: An Open-Source Robot Operating System" has grown to 2,871.

To get a better sense of what's happening in the ROS community, if you have not already done so, I highly recommend reviewing the ROSCon 2016 program. You can also find all the video recordings in this gallery. ROSCon 2016 was another great event bringing ROS community members together to share how they're using ROS to solve their challenges. As the goal of ROSCon is to share information between the entire community we record the talks and make them available online. We've sold out our venues the last two years and are looking forward to another ROSCon next fall!

roscon-group-thumb.png

Part of understanding our growing community is to try to measure it. For the last 6 years we've been generating metrics reports. These reports can give a sense of aggregate what's happening in the ROS community. Our most recent report is from July 2016. David Lu has put together plots of several of the metrics across the last 6 years which can be quite informative.

This year we wanted to dig a little deeper into the code metrics, so we downloaded the source of all of packages listed in the Indigo Igloo rosdistro and ran some analysis.

  • The total line count is over 14 million lines of code
  • There have been 2477 authors
  • And 181509 commits
  • Averaging 73.3 commits per author

You can see the commits as a function of month in this graph.

commits_by_year_month.png

Our committers are active around the world as evidenced by the commits coming in at all hours of the day.

hour_of_day.png

And the git commits record 24 different time zones (out of 39 possible).

Analyzing the repository for significant lines of code using SLOCCount shows:

  • 4,077,199 significant lines of code.
  • This represents an estimated 1,236 person-years of development.
  • For a sense of scale, that is an average of 137 developers contributing full time over the last 9 years!

For those of you curious about the breakdown by language lines of code, it is as follows:

  • cpp: 2608592 (63.98%)
  • python: 553332 (13.57%)
  • ansic: 297629 (7.30%)
  • xml: 280615 (6.88%)
  • lisp: 149439 (3.67%)
  • java: 135343 (3.32%)
  • ruby: 26484 (0.65%)
  • sh: 21120 (0.52%)

This only represents the packages publicly released into the Indigo rosdistro index.

Note that the tools only worked on Git repos so code from other source control systems was excluded. There are also a few projects which predate ROS but have ported to use ROS and their history is included.

We're looking forward to continuing growth through 2017 leading up to the 10-year anniversary of ROS. With the Beta 1 version of ROS 2.0 out, there will be space for new development. We're looking forward to our next release, Lunar Loggerhead, to coincide with Ubuntu's next release, Zesty Zapus. With both of these, the ROS community can continue to rely on the many libraries, tools, and capabilities they have come to know and enjoy, as well as begin to experiment with the new features in ROS 2.0

Another exciting project to watch is the upcoming TurtleBot 3! The TurtleBot and TurtleBot 2 have been great platforms for learning and prototyping. However by packing that same capability into a smaller platform with more punch we look forward to it providing another avenue to grow the ROS community.

We write these anniversary posts to help give you a sense of how ROS has been doing over the past year, but we'd certainly encourage you to find out for yourself. Get involved. Write or edit a wiki page. Answer a question on ROS Answers. Come to ROSCon. And, when you're ready, think about helping to maintain ROS itself, or even contributing a brand new ROS package.

OSRF is doing great, but the long-term success of ROS depends on every member of the incredibly awesome ROS community. If you're already an active part of the ROS community, we can't thank you enough; and if you're not, think about how you can help ROS grow and thrive for the next nine years, and beyond.

From Clearpath Robotics

Clearpath Robotics, a leading provider of mobile robotic platforms for research and development, announced the release of Warthog - a large, amphibious, all-terrain mobile robot designed for application development. Warthog enables researchers to reliably test, validate, and advance their robotics research faster than ever before in real world conditions, whether on land or in water.

"ARGO XTR (Xtreme Terrain Robotics) has a terrific record of manufacturing rock-solid outdoor platforms," says Julian Ware, General Manager for Research Solutions at Clearpath Robotics. "Combined with our expertise in robotics, we've developed rugged platform suitable for a wide range of robotics applications in mining, agriculture, forestry, space, and environmental monitoring."

Warthog's light-weight aluminum chassis, low ground pressure, passive suspension system, and 24" traction tires allow it to easily traverse a variety of tough terrains including soft soils, thick muds and steep grades, all while carrying up to 272 kg of payload. With built-in bilge pumps and an IP rating of 67, Warthog is fully weather-proof and amphibious, capable of moving through deep waterways at up to 4 km/h, or travel at speeds of up to 18 km/h while on land. The all-electric, skid steer platform has expandable power allowing for a runtime of 6 hrs, and can be outfitted with quad tracks for ultimate traction and maneuverability in snow and sand.

"ARGO XTR is excited to partner with a progressive robotics company like Clearpath with our platform," says Jason Scheib, ARGO XTR Robotics Program Director. "The combination of our proven experience in amphibious and extreme terrain environments with our platforms with the progressive software and sensor integration from Clearpath Robotics, has created a second to none solution for a myriad of research and commercial applications."

Designed for end-to-end integration and customization, Warthog includes an internal computer, IMU, wheel encoders, and mounting racks, as well as accessible user power and communication ports for integrating sensors, manipulators, and other third-party hardware. Warthog is shipped with the Robot Operating System (ROS) preconfigured and a Gazebo simulation model, allowing researchers to get started quickly with existing research and widely available open-source ROS libraries.

For more information, visit www.clearpathrobotics.com/warthog-ugv

Announcing ROSComponents online store

From Román Navarro via ros-users@

I'd like to announce a new online store for robots, sensors and components supported by ROS: https://www.roscomponents.com

Why ROS-Components?

In recent years, ROS has become the standard in Service and Research Robotics, and it's making great advances in the Industry.

Most of the robots and components in the market support ROS, though sometimes finding which are really supported, what ROS version they make use, and how to get them is a difficult task. One of our main purposes is to make it easier and simpler for the customer, linking the products with their ROS controllers, explaining how to install and configure them and showing where to find useful information about them.

All the products in the site are supported by ROS, either available directly in the ROS distribution or through their source code. The ROS community has a new meeting point in ROS Components!

ROS as standard

From ROS-Components we strongly believe that ROS is and will be the standard in Robotics for many more years. Therefore we want to encourage roboticists to use it (whether you are not already doing so) as well as manufacturers to give support to it.

Supporting ROS and its Community

As you know, the ROS core is currently being maintained by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), which is an independent non-profit R&D company leading the development, maintenance of ROS versions and hosting all the necessary infrastructure.

From ROS Components we try to encourage the use of ROS as well as its maintenance and growth. Therefore we are going to donate part of the benefits of every sale to the OSRF. So, every time you buy in ROS Components, you'll be contributing to the ROS maintenance and development.

Volvo ROAR project

From Per-Lage Götvall, PM ROAR

The basic reason for forming this project was the question: "How do we make autonomous machines working together on common task?". E..g. when using an autonomous wheel loader loading gravel on a truck, who is deciding on their relative positions; the truck, the loader or a supervising system?

To make a first approach we decided to this in the frame of Volvo Group Academic Preferred Partner (APP) network, involving students and researchers from Chalmers and Mälardalen universities in Sweden and Penn State University, Pennsylvania, US and the Swedish waste mgmt. company, Renova. We all agreed that using ROS was a must to, on one hand, coordinate the three universities and also, use the development made within the frame of ROS (e.g. Gazibo, Rviz, Moveit, Drivers etc.). Thank's to a great engagement from the researchers and students, and of course the ROS components we manage to make this (and a lot more, not shown in the video).

Towards ROS-native drones

From Medium:

Announcing alpha support for the PX4 flight stack in a path towards drones that speak ROS natively

The drones field is an interesting one to analyze from a robotics perspective. While capable flying robots are reasonably new, RC-hobbyists have been around for a much longer time building flying machines developing communities around the so called flight stacks or software autopilots.

Among these, there're popular options such as the Paparazzi, the APM (commonly known as ardupilot) or the PX4. These autopilots matured to the point of acquiring autonomous capabilities and turning these flying machines into actual drones. Many of these open source flight stacks provide a general codebase for building basic drone behaviors however modifications are generally needed when one has the intention of tackling traditional problems in robotics such as navigation, mapping, obstacle avoidance and so on. These modifications are not straightforward when performed directly in the autopilot code thereby, in an attempt to enhance (or sometimes just simplify) the capabilities of autopilots, abstraction layers such as DroneKit started appearing.

For a roboticist however, the common language is the Robot Operating System (ROS). Getting ROS to talk to these flight stacks natively would require a decent amount of resources and effort thereby, generally, roboticists use a bridge such as the mavros ROS package to talk to the flight stacks.

We at Erle Robotics have been offering services with flying robots using such architecture but we've always wondered what would be the path towards a ROS-native drone. In order to explore this possibility we've added support for the PX4 Pro flight stack. 


Supporting the PX4 Pro flight stack

The PX4 Pro drone autopilot is an open source (BSD) flight control solution for drones that can "fly anything from a racing to a cargo drone?--?be it a multi copter, plane or VTOL". PX4 has been built with a philosophy similar to ROS, composed by different software blocks where each one of these modules communicates using a publish/subscribe architecture (currently, a simplified pub/sub middleware called uORB).

In an internal attempt to research the path of getting ROS-native flight stacks and to open up this work to the community I'm happy to announce official alpha support for the PX4 Pro in all our products meant for developers such as the PXFmini, Erle-Brain 2 or Erle-Copter. Our team has put together a new set of Operating System images for our products that will help you switch between flight stacks easily.

To install PX4 Pro, just type the following:

sudo apt-get purge -y apm-* # e.g.: apm-copter-erlebrain 
sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get install px4-erle-robotics


ROS-native flight stacks 

Using the PX4 Pro flight stack as a starting point, our team will be dedicating resources to prototype the concept of a drone autopilot that speaks ROS natively, that is, that uses ROS nodes to abstract each submodule within the autopilot's logic (attitude estimator, position control, navigator, ...) and ROS topics/services to communicate with the rest of the blocks within the autopilot. Ultimately, this initiative should deliver a software autopilot capable of creating a variety of drones that merges nicely with all the traditional ROS interfaces that roboticists have been building for over a decade now. 

If you're interested in participating with this initiative, reach us out at http://erlerobotics.com/blog/contact/.

ROSCon 2016 Videos and Slides Posted

ROSCon was record-breaking in every way, with over 450 attendees and a 60% increase over last year in sponsorship.

Thanks to everyone for coming and for your support! And thank you to our sponsors for the financial support that enabled the conference to grow!

We're happy to announce that we've posted recordings of all the talks on the program. You can find them linked at: http://roscon.ros.org/2016/#program As well we have collected the slides from most of the presenters as well which are linked there as well.

If you would like to browse through the videos alone you can also find all 56 videos here: https://vimeopro.com/osrfoundation/roscon-2016

Find this blog and more at planet.ros.org.


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