May 2016 Archives

Michael Aeberhard (BMW): Automated Driving with ROS at BMW


BMW has been working on automated driving for the last decade, steadily implementing more advanced features ranging from emergency stop assistance and autonomous highway driving to fully automated valet parking and 360° collision avoidance. Several of these projects were presented at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, and as it turns out, the cars were running ROS for both environment detection and planning.

BMW, being BMW, has no problem getting new research hardware. Their latest development platform is the 335I G. This model comes with an advanced driver assistance system based around cameras and radar. The car has been outfitted with four low-profile laser scanners and one long-range radar, but otherwise, it's pretty close (in terms of hardware) to what's available in production BMWs.

Why did BMW choose to move from their internally developed software architecture to ROS? Michael explains how ROS' reputation in the robotics research community prompted his team to give it a try, and they were impressed with its open source nature, distributed architecture, existing selection of software packages, as well as its helpful community. "A large user base means stability and reliability," Michael says, "because somebody else probably already solved the problem you're having." Additionally, using ROS rather than a commercial software platform makes it much easier for BMW to cooperate with universities and research institutions.

Michael discusses the ROS software architecture that BMW is using to do its autonomous car development, and shows how the software interprets the sensor data to identify obstacles and lane markings and do localization and trajectory planning to enable full highway autonomy, based on a combination of lane keeping and dynamic cruise control. BMW also created their own suite of RQT and rviz plugins specifically designed for autonomous vehicle development.

After about two years of experience with ROS, BMW likes a lot of things about it, but Michael and his team do have some constructive criticisms: message transport needs more work (although ROS 2 should help with this), managing configurations for different robots is problematic, and it's difficult to enforce compliance with industry standards like ISO and

Next up: Jerry Towler & Marc Alban (SwRI)

Job Opening: 6 River Systems

From Rylan Hamilton via rosnews

Come work with a team of people who are passionate about tackling challenging problems and building products that customers need. We are located just outside Boston, MA.

Our team includes many rock star engineers who worked at places like Kiva Systems. We are building next generation mobile robots for e-Commerce and retail warehouses. We received funding this year from Eclipse and iRobot and are currently working with select customers on pilots through 2016. It's a great time to join our early stage startup.

Actively hiring: Senior Software Engineer - Robotics Related

Contact me directly at: Rylan Hamilton (Co-founder)

More at

ROSCon 2016: Call for Proposals

ROSCON 2016 is happening October 8-9 in Seoul, Korea:

Proposals for presentations on all topics related to ROS are invited:

The proposal submission deadline is July 8th, 2016:

Women, members of minority groups, and members of other under-represented groups are encouraged to submit presentation proposals to ROSCon.

Proposals will be reviewed by the program committee, which will evaluate fit, impact, and balance.

We cannot offer sessions that are not proposed! If there is a topic on which you would like to present, please propose it. If you have an idea for an important topic that you do not want to present yourself, please post it to

All ROS-related work is invited. Topics of interest include:

  • Best practices
  • Useful packages
  • Robot-specific development
  • ROS Enhancement Proposals (REPs)
  • Safety and security
  • ROS in embedded systems
  • Product development & commercialization
  • Research and education
  • Enterprise deployment
  • Community organization and direction
  • Testing, quality, and documentation
  • Robotics competitions and collaborations

To get an idea of the content and tone of ROSCon, check out the presentation slides and videos from previous years:

Submit your proposal here:

We can't put on ROSCon without the support of our generous sponsors:

We'd like to especially thank our Platinum and Gold Sponsors: Fetch Robotics and Intel!

If you're interested in supporting ROSCon, please contact us:

ROS Kinetic Kame Released

Happy World Turtle Day!

I am pleased to announce that the 10th ROS distribution, Kinetic Kame, is now available on Ubuntu Xenial 16.04, Ubuntu Wily 15.10, and Debian Jessie. Packages for 32-bit ARM (armhf) are available on Xenial, and 64-bit ARM (aarch64) is supported on Debian Jessie.


To install ROS Kinetic, refer to the Installation page on the Wiki:
Check out the Migration guide for a changelog of new features and API changes:

524 packages in the ROS ecosystem are in the initial release of Kinetic, compared to 2149 currently in Indigo and 1016 in Jade. You can see the released packages on the status page for Kinetic:

And you can compare the versions of packages in Indigo, Jade, and Kinetic here (thanks William for making changes to the new compare pages):

If there's a package missing in Kinetic that you'd like to see released, contact the maintainers to let them know. Even though we've made the initial Kinetic release, it's never too late to add packages to Kinetic (or Jade or Indigo) for upcoming syncs.

Kinetic T-shirts (and hoodies) should come through in the mail this week.

We'd also like to announce the name of the next ROS distribution, which you can look forward to downloading a year from now: Lunar Loggerhead!

Thank you to all of the maintainers and contributors who helped make this release possible. We couldn't do this without you.

- Jackie and the ROS Team


slack-ros-pkg: Let your robot chat with you !

From Joffrey Kriegel

I recently made a package to enable the communication between ROS and Slack. Slack is a messaging app for team with multiplatform capability.

This package is able to connect to a Slack channel, listen what you say in it and publish it in a ROS topic. It's also able to write on the Slack channel thanks to another ROS topic.

You can find the source code (in python) and the (little) documentation here :

I hope you will enjoy this package.


While Intel is best known for making computer processors, the company is also interested in how people interact with all of the computing devices that have Intel inside. In other words, Intel makes brains, but they need senses to enable those brains to understand the world around them. Intel has developed two very small and very cheap 3D cameras (one long range and one short range) called RealSense, with the initial intent of putting them into devices like laptops and tablets for applications such as facial recognition and gesture tracking.

Robots are also in dire need of capable and affordable 3D sensors for navigation and object recognition, and fortunately, Intel understands this, and they've created the RealSense Robotics Innovation Program to help drive innovation using their hardware. Intel itself isn't a robotics company, but as Amit explains in his ROSCon talk, they want to be a part of the robotics future, which is why they prioritized ROS integration for their RealSense cameras.

A RealSense ROS package has been available since 2015, and Intel has been listening to feedback from roboticists and steadily adding more features. The package provides access to the RealSense camera data (RGB, depth, IR, and point cloud), and will eventually include basic computer vision functions (including plane analysis and blob detection) as well as more advanced functions like skeleton tracking, object recognition, and localization and mapping tools.

Intel RealSense 3D camera developer kits are available now, and you can order one for as little as $99.

Next up: Michael Aeberhard, Thomas Kühbeck, Bernhard Seidl, et al. (BMW Group Research and Technology) Check out last week's post: The Descartes Planning Library for Semi-Constrained Cartesian Trajectories

all-rounder roboticist in Paris start-up

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From Karsten Knese via ros-users@

EOS Innovation is a dynamic startup located in the south of Paris, with Parrot as a parent company. We are currently looking for a motivated roboticist to extent our team.

Job description:

The ideal candidate is a talented all rounder roboticist with focused experience in control and indoor navigation. The candidate will be part a small team of engineers and mainly working on stabilizing our current indoor navigation. Further, the position involves multiple R&D projects and hardware contact.


  • fluent in C/C++

  • proficiency in Python

  • experience with ROS

Bonus points:

  • experience with real robot systems

  • experience with signal processing

  • good communication skills (direct client contact)

If you are interested send your CV to For more information have a look at


Descartes is a path planning library that's designed to solve the problem of planning with semi-constrained trajectories. Semi-constrained means that the degrees of freedom of the path you need to plan are fewer than the degrees of freedom that your robot has. In other words, when planning a path, there are one or more "free" axes that your robot has to work with that can be moved any which way without disrupting the path. This can open up the planning space if you can utilize them creatively, which traditional robots (especially in the industrial space) usually can't. This results in reduced workspaces and (most dangerous of all) increased reliance on human intuition during the planning process.

Descartes was designed to generate common sense plans, exhibiting similar characteristics to paths planned by a human. It can solve easy problems quickly, and difficult problems eventually, integrating hybrid trajectories and dynamic replanning. It's easy to use, with a GUI that allows you to quickly set anchor points that the robot replans around, with visual confirmation of the new path. The second half of Shaun's ROSCon talk is an in-depth explanation of Descartes' interfaces and implementations intended for path planning fans (you know who you are).

As with many (if not most) of the projects being presented at ROSCon, Descartes is open source, and all of the development is public. If you'd like to try it out, the current stable release runs on ROS Hydro, and a tutorial is available on the ROS Wiki to help you get started.

Next up: Amit Moran & Gila Kamhi (Intel) Check out last week's post: Phobos -- Robot Model Development on Steroids

From Claudio Semini via ros-users@

The Dynamic Legged Systems Lab (DLS Lab) at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is looking for a full time

SOFTWARE ENGINEER (deadline 7th of May!)

with proven experience in programming (mostly C and C++).

The DLS Lab is known for cutting-edge research in the area of high-performance legged robots. The Lab's main research platform is the [hydraulic robot HyQ] (, one of the world's top performing quadruped robots. Its successor is the new HyQ2Max robot.

The successful candidate will be responsible for developing software in the area of embedded systems, communication and networking as well as higher level applications such as graphical interfaces to support the different projects within the DLS Lab.

Please visit the following page for a detailed list of requirements and other info: The highly competitive salary will depend on qualifications and experience and will include additional health benefits.

To apply please send electronically your detailed CV, university transcripts and cover letter outlining motivation, experience and qualifications for the post to by May 7th, 2016 stating "DLSLab SW 2016" in the subject of the e-mail.

From Michal Staniaszek via ros-users@

Version 1.8.9 of the diagnostics package (Indigo and later) has some new functionality for the diagnostic aggregator. You can now change the diagnostic aggregator at runtime by dynamically loading or unloading diagnostic analysers. This can be done by including a node in launch file, or directly from code if you require more control. The intention of the change is to give more flexibility to the aggregator, allow individual packages to specify the analysers that they need, and reduce clutter in the diagnostic aggregator GUI.

Please see the tutorial for examples and more information.


To model a robot in rviz, you first need to create what's called a Unified Robot Description Format (URDF) file, which is an XML-formatted text file that represents the physical configuration of your robot. Fundamentally, it's not that hard to create a URDF file, but for complex robots, these files tend to be enormously complicated and very tedious to put together. At the University of Bremen, Kai von Szadkowski was tasked with developing a URDF model for a 60 degrees of freedom robot called MANTIS (Multi-legged Manipulation and Locomotion System). Kai got a bit fed up with the process and developed a better way of doing it, called Phobos.




Phobos is an add-on for a piece of free and open-source 3D modeling and rendering software called Blender. Using Blender, you can create armatures, which are essentially kinematic skeletons that you can use to animate a 3D character. As it turns out, there are some convenient parallels between URDF models and 3D models in Blender: the links and joints in a URDF file equate to armatures and bones in Blender, and both use similar hierarchical structures to describe their models. Phobos adds a new toolbar to Blender that makes it easy to edit these models by adding links, motors, sensors, and collision geometries. You can also leverage Blender's Python scripting environment to automate as much of the process as you'd like. Additionally, Phobos comes with a sort of "robot dictionary" in Python that manages all of the exporting to URDF for you.


Since the native URDF format can't handle all of the information that can be incorporated into your model in Blender, Kai proposes an extended version of URDF called SMURF (Supplemental Mostly Universal Robot Format) that adds YAML files to a URDF, supporting annotations for sensor, motors, and anything else you'd like to include.


If any of this sounds good to you, it's easy to try it out: Blender is available for free, and Phobos can be found on GitHub.

Husqvarna Research Platform

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From Stefan Grufman via ros-users@

We would like to announce support for ROS into some of our products. We will be showing this at ICRA 2016 (in Stockholm) during the 16/5 to 20/5.

Husqvarna Group has been manufacturing and selling robotic lawn mowers for more than 20 years. These robots are pretty basic when it comes to sensors and intelligence but we are of course researching how these products will be changed for the future. We have spent a some time doing internal research but in order for us to better work with you (the real researchers!) we have now adapted our robot (Automower 330X) to ROS by exposing an interface and implementing a driver for this (the driver will be available as open source soon). We really like the trend in robotics research towards robustness and long term autonomy. This is an area where we think we can help/boost the research by making our hardware available to researchers.

The idea is that we have a very robust & safe robot that will operate 24/7 in all weather conditions (except Scandinavian winter). It has a safety system (collision, lift and the loop around your area) and it will automatically return to the charging station when charging is needed. There are also plenty of space to include your own set of sensors as well as computational power, both inside the chassis as well as outside. We can provide mechanical drawings of mounts that you can print out on an SLS/SLA machine.

So, the offer to you is to get access to this, we call it the Husqvarna Research Platform (HRP), and use it as an outdoor mobile robotics platform for your research. If you need/like, the safety system can be used to run multiple battery cycles without need to handle docking/charging. This could for example be used when collecting data sets over long periods of time. The HRP also supports manual mode, and in this case you have full control of the motors (through the "/cmd_vel" topic) and can do whatever you need. You can mount extra computing power (we usually use an Odroid XU4) and/or sensors of your choice.

The platform will be presented and demoed by Husqvarna as well as one of our research partners, Örebro Univeristy (AASS) during ICRA 2016. We will have a booth at the ICRA expo and would like to invite you all to come and talk with us there. During ICRA 2016, we will also take ideas for your research ideas and hand out the mower shown at the demo to the best idea!

Husqvarna Group information can be found here:

Information on our robotic products can be found here:

From David Rohr via ros-users@

5D is looking for candidates for both full-time positions and summer internships. Please check out the links below to see our RecruiterBox listings:

Full-Time Roboticist

Robotics Intern

From Brad Bogolea via ros-users@

Simbe Robotics is currently hiring for a number of robotics-focused engineering roles in the San Francisco Bay Area. 


At Simbe, we are automating brick & mortar retail through the use of mobile robots, computer vision, and cloud-based software. Our first product, Tally, provides retailers unprecedented visibility and insights into the state of their stores.  


Current open positions include:     


Robotics Software Engineer


Computer Vision Software Engineer


Robotics Research Intern


Dev Ops Engineer


Full Stack Web Software Engineer

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