April 2014 Archives

Occipital committed to support OpenNI

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From Nicolas Burrus at Occipital via ros-users@

You may have noticed that openni.org has shut down today, as
previously announced. However at Occipital we committed to support
OpenNI when we launched our Structure Sensor, so we have created an
online resource with OpenNI2 source code, binaries and documentation.
We will also do our best to keep supporting other Primesense-based
sensors such as Carmine and Asus Xtion.

Since the project will remain open source, any help to maintain or
improve OpenNI is welcome!

You can check out the webpage here: http://structure.io/openni

From Dave Coleman

Two Colorado robotics Meetup groups, Boulder is for Robots and ROS on the Rocks, teamed up to provide an evening full of ROS centric demos, presentations, and discussion. Promises of robot demos and free pizza drew an audience of more than 60 people from academics, industry, and robotics enthusiasts. The event was hosted on the CU campus, and was sponsored by the local Colorado robotics company, Orbotix - creators of the Sphero platform.


Daniel Packard, a contractor with Clearpath Robotics, kicked off the evening with a bare bones introduction to the ROS framework. He introduced many of the core concepts in ROS, and he concluded with a brief demonstration using Sphero, an Xbox360 controller, and a pan-tilt mount from RoadNarrows Robotics.

Dave Jilk of eCortex spoke about his efforts to use ROS to connect a neural network simulation system, known as Emergent, to simple robotic platforms, including an iRobot Create and an attached Android phone. His approach included running ROS on a cloud server with ROSBridge, and a Gazebo simulation of the combined platform.

Dave Coleman, a PhD student at CU Boulder, introduced one of ROS's most popular packages - the MoveIt! Motion Planning Framework. Drawing from his experience helping develop it, he discussed its features, some of the theory behind it, and its popularity and usage today in controlling robots around the world.

All in all, the event was a great success!

2014-04-17 18.36.18.jpg

From Stephan Kallweit


Our first ROS Summer School in 2012 showed that a lot of students and external researchers were interested in mobile autonomous systems, but did not know how to start. Our ROS Summer Schools provide the right starter kit by using a self-developed, low cost robotic hardware and - of course - ROS software. First, we start with some introductory courses, before we tackle the main tasks of mobile robotics, i.e. perception, localization and navigation. Every day these main tasks are implemented on the hardware and tested on our test track, where the mobile systems have to fulfill some predefined tasks, from simple teleoperation to autonomous navigation.

A highlight of the work shop is a competition at the end of the third week: Summer school participants form different teams to design a typical mobile robotic application like indoor/outdoor exploration. All teams use the same hardware controlled by their acquired ROS skills.

The ROS Summer School includes also some leisure activities, such as day trips to Maastricht and Paris, where we also pay a visit to Aldebaran. Last but not least, we have a farewell barbecue at the end.

For more information and registration please visit


ROS Kong Early Registration Ends April 30th

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Just a quick reminder that ROS Kong early registration ends on April 30th. 


See https://events.osrfoundation.org/ros-kong-2014/ for details and registration. 

ROS Kong 2014 will be held on June 6th at Hong Kong University immediately following ICRA. It will feature: 
* Invited speakers: Learn about the latest improvements to and applications of ROS software from some of the luminaries in our community.
* Lightning talks: One of our most popular events, lightning talks are back-to-back 3-minute presentations that are scheduled on-site. Bring your project pitch and share it with the world!
* Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) meetings: Get together with folks who share your specific interest, whether it's ROS in embedded systems, ROS in space, ROS for products, or anything else that will draw a crowd.

To keep us all together, coffee breaks and lunch will be catered on-site. There will also be a hosted reception (with food and drink) at a classic Hong Kong venue at the end of the day. Throughout the day, there will be lots of time to meet other ROS users both from Asia and around the world.

New Package: robot_localization

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From Tom Moore via ros-users@

I am pleased to announce the release of a new ROS package, robot_localization. The package estimates the state (3D pose and velocity) of a mobile robot through sensor fusion. Its features include:

* Fusion of an arbitrary number of sensors: the nodes do not restrict the number of input sources. If, for example, your robot has multiple IMUs or multiple sources of odometry information, the nodes within robot_localization can support all of them.

* Support for multiple ROS message types: all nodes in robot_localization can take in Odometry, Imu, PoseWithCovarianceStamped, or TwistWithCovarianceStamped messages.

* Per-sensor input customization: if a given sensor message contains data that you don't want to include in your state estimate, robot_localization's nodes allow you to exclude that data on a per-sensor basis.

* Continuous estimation: each node in robot_localization begins estimating the robot's state as soon as it receives a single measurement. If there is a holiday in the sensor data (i.e., a long period in which no data is received), the filter will continue to estimate the robot's state via a 3D motion model.

robot_localization currently contains only one node, ekf_localization, which, as the name implies, employs an extended Kalman filter. New nodes, such as an unscented Kalman filter node, will be added as they become available.

robot_localization is currently available for ROS Groovy, Hydro, and Indigo. The package's wiki page athttp://wiki.ros.org/robot_localization provides more details on how to integrate it with your robot. 

Development of this node was funded by Charles River Analytics, Inc.

ROS Indigo Igloo Logo and Release T-shirt

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With each release of ROS we have a tradition of having a logo and making t-shirts. ROS indigo Igloo is coming out in May. To let you show your ROS colors and support this tradition, we have setup a Teespring Campaign here.  Ordering will be open until May 13th.


Proceeds from shirt sales go to supporting the costs associated with developing and maintaining ROS, including hosting the wiki and running the build farm. 

We're also happy to announce that there are a few variants such as long sleeved and v-necked shirts as well as hoodies are also available. 

Order now and if this campaign is funded we expect the shirts to arrive approximately when ROS Indigo Igloo is released. 

Update 2014-04-26: The campaign has exceeded the minimum of 100 t-shirts. It will be produced!

Here's a copy of the full logo too: 

From Alex Bubeck via ros-users@

I would like to announce the second ROS-Industrial community forum for
community discussion and presentation of new developments of the ROS
industrial community. The forum will take place online at on April 28th,
2014 at 5pm CET (11am EST). You can register to participate at

The agenda of the forum will be as follows:
* Introductions and Forum Overview (Alexander Bubeck - Fraunhofer IPA)
* Comau Controllers Evolution and Q&A - C4G/C5G Open (Fabrizio Romanelli -
COMAU and Elisa Tosello - University of Padua)
        * A non real-time ROS interface for a real-time controller
        * Preliminary results
* 6 Lightning Talks about current developments in the ROS Industrial
community (Community)
* Upcoming Contributions (Community)
* Wish List Discussion (Community)
* General Q&A and Upcoming Events (Alexander Bubeck - Fraunhofer IPA)

For the lightning talks about developments or projects in an industrial we
accept proposals from now on a first come first serve basis. We will have 6
slots of 5 minutes for this community forum. Just give me a short direct
email at alexander.bubeck@ipa.fraunhofer.de with the topic you want to talk
about. The slides (not more than 3) have to be send to me by April 26th

I hope to see you at the forum.
From Dmitry Berenson via ros-users@

The ARC Lab at WPI is releasing the Datalink Toolkit ROS package, designed to for remote operation of a robot over a high-latency and low-bandwidth datalink. The package was developed and extensively tested as part of the DARPA robotics challenge, though it is not specific to a type of robot.

The package allows the user to easily set up relays and compression methods for a single-master system. These relays avoid duplicating data sent over the datalink while compressing common datatypes (i.e. point-clouds and images) to minimize bandwidth usage.
The toolkit includes both message-based and service-based relays so that data can be sent on-demand or at a specified frequency. The service-based relays are more robust in low-bandwidth conditions, guaranteeing the synchronization of camera images and camera info messages, and allow more reconfiguration while running.

The key features of the package are:
- Generic relays with integrated rate throttling for all message types
- Dedicated relays with rate throttling for images and pointclouds
- Generic service-based relays with integrated rate throttling for all message types
- Dedicated service-based relays with integrated rate throttling for images and pointclouds
- Image resizing and compression using methods from OpenCV and image_transport
- Pointcloud voxel filtering and compression using methods from PCL, Zlib, and other algorithms. (Note: pointcloud compression is provided in a separate library that can be easily integrated with other projects)
- Launch files for easy use of the datalink software with RGBD cameras
- Works with ROS Hydro

Overall performance:
- Reliable data transfer for a wide range of bandwidths and latencies (e.g. at DRC Trials: 1Mb/s - 100 Kb/s bandwidth, 100ms - 1000ms latency)
- Pointcloud compression >8x depending on compression algorithm (without voxel filtering)
- Pointcloud compression >20x depending on compression algorithm (with voxel filtering)
- Image compression equivalent to image_transport (without image resizing) or better (with resizing)

Performance comparison with ROS for image transfer:
- 1.5x more images/second at 1Mb/s (grayscale image size 320x240)
- 2x more images/second at 100Kb/s (grayscale image size 320x240)
- 3x more images/second at 50Kb/s (grayscale image size 320x240)

For more information, please see the wiki here:

Get the package from our git repository here:

New Package: moveit_visual_tools

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From Dave Coleman via moveit-users@


I'd like to announce MoveIt! Visual Tools - a new tool that will hopefully speed up your development time by providing easy to use Rviz markers and robot display tools for debugging and visualization. It is sometimes hard to understand everything that is going on internally with MoveIt!, but using these quick convenience functions allows one to easily visualize their code. 

This package includes:
  • Basic geometric markers for Rviz
  • MoveIt! collision object tools
  • Trajectory visualization tools
  • Robot state tools. 
See the Github README for full documentation. This will be available as an Ubuntu debian next Hydro update. 

I encourage everyone to share their MoveIt! work to the community as well, thanks!

ROS Kong 2014 Speakers Announced

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We're happy to announce the lineup of invited speakers for ROS Kong 2014:

We're thrilled to host such an esteemed group of speakers who represent so many different aspects of the Australasian ROS community, from research to product development.

Reminder: the early registration deadline is April 30th.

ROS Drinks - London

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From Dan Greenwald

Calling all London ROS Users! You are warmly invited
to the first London Robotics Network "ROS Drinks",
on the evening of 23/4/14. Put another way, come and
meet up for beer, food and talking about robots.

We thought we should have a regular meetup to talk about
ROS and robots in general. This month we'll be at the
Craft Beer Co in Angel (55 White Lion Street N1 9PP)
from about 6pm in the back room.

The pub does food as well as really excellent beers.

Here is the flyer for event on the LRN group.

Feel free to contact Dan Greenwald (dg@shadowrobot.com)
for more info/any questions.

Hope to see you there.

New package: Frontier Exploration

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From Paul Bovbel via ros-users@

Hello ros-users,

This package implements frontier exploration using an action server (explore_server), that can be controlled from rviz via explore_client, or directly from other nodes.

When starting out with ROS, I was frustrated that there was no (maintained) exploration package that worked solely using the core ROS APIs (i.e. navigation).

Internally, this package contains a custom costmap_2d layer plugin that could be adapted for more complex exploration strategies.

Please email or post any feedback, comments or concerns!

New version of STDR SImulator

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From Manos Tsardoulias via ros-users@

The current version of STDR Simulator is 0.1.3! The changes compared to the v0.1.0 follow:
  • Full support of robots with polygonal footprint
  • Zoom in STDR GUI is also performed with the mouse wheel
  • Fixed saving and loading robots and sensors from the Robot Creator in GUI
  • Added odometry publisher
  • Added robot-to-obstacles collision check
Special thanks to trainman419 for contributions in 
  • the polygonal robot support and the odometry publisher
  • GUI makefiles
  • writing a tutorial on robot teleoperation with STDR using teleop_twist_keyboard.

The next version (v0.1.4) will include full support of RFID tags and RFID reader sensors.

NooTriX posted Hydro VM Image

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From Nootrix via ros-users:

We finally managed to make a virtual machine with Hydro. As usual, it's freely available for download at:

NooTriX Team

ROS user survey: the results are in

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The results are in from the January 2014 ROS user survey. Thanks to everyone who participated!

We had a total of 336 responses. We'll walk through the questions, one at a time:

In general, for what do you use ROS?


Not surprisingly, the lion's share of ROS users consider themselves to be doing research. That's where we started, and we expect to continue to see high participation in the research community. But we also see about 1/3 of respondents classifying themselves in education and 1/3 in product development, with a smaller share of self-identified hobbyists. Those are all areas for future growth in ROS usage.

What about ROS convinced you to use it?


Interestingly, the top response here is the communications system. When we set out to build ROS, we started with the communications system, because we believe that robotics problems are most naturally solved by developing distributed systems, and further that developing those systems is hard, requiring solid, easy to use tools. It looks like our users appreciate the effort that's been put into ROS middleware.

Also near the top are what we can call the "healthy open source project" benefits: friendly licensing, helpful community, and playing nicely with related open source projects.

How do you primarily use ROS?


Most users are working with a single robot, but a substantial number of people are working with multiple robots, which was outside the initial design of ROS. Multi-robot support definitely needs improvement, but clearly people are already getting something out of ROS in multi-robot environments.

With what type(s) of hardware do you use ROS?


At least in part because most robots in the world (or at least in research labs) are basically cameras and/or lasers on wheels, we see most of our users working on those platforms. But we also see a fair number of people working with arms and hands, and we expect that the number of legged systems will grow in the future.

Have you shared and/or released your own ROS packages?


Here we see a familiar pattern in open source development: most users don't share their code with the community. That's OK with us, because we know that not everybody is in a position to share their code (for example, commercial users who are building ROS-based products). But if you can share code, please do!

Which ROS packages are most important to you?


Here, we have some clear winners. Visualization is important: rviz is a critical piece of infrastructure in our community, and the rqt library of visualization components is also heavily used. Also highly ranked are planning libraries (navigation and MoveIt!), perception libraries (PCL and OpenCV), coordinate transform management (tf), and simulation (Gazebo). Interestingly, we see the OpenNI driver in the top ten, perhaps reflecting the long-standing connection between ROS and Kinect-like devices, dating back to the ROS 3D Contest.

Where should future ROS development focus?


Less clarity here; basically we should do more of everything.

What is your top priority for future ROS development?

The free-form answers we received in response to this question are challenging to quantify. At a high-level, here's a qualitative distillation of common themes, in no particular order:

  • more / better documentation
  • more / better / more up-to-date tutorials
  • improved usability
  • greater stability, less frequent releases
  • better multi-master / multi-robot support
  • consolidation of related parts into coherent wholes
  • better / more mature middleware
  • better / more attentive maintenance of core libraries and tools
  • add features and fix bugs in rqt
  • get to "production quality"
  • IDE support
  • real time support

Would you be willing to anonymously report usage statistics?


About 1/2 of respondents are willing to install a plugin to roscore that would track and anonymously report usage statistics, which would let us automatically collect data on which packages, nodes, launch files, etc. are most heavily used. Any volunteers to write that plugin?

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

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