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Happy National Robotics Week!

All of us at OSRF would like to wish everyone a happy National Robotics Week! There are events celebrating all things robotic all week long throughout the U.S. A full list of events can be found here. The folks at RoboWeek 2014 have even created some cool robot trading cards. Come and get 'em here. (At least two of them are running ROS.)

Closer to home, OSRF will be taking part in the Silicon Valley Robot Block Party. We will be among the many cool robotics companies showing off their wares. The event is this Wednesday, April 9, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at WilmerHale in Palo Alto. Robot Block Party is a free event open to the public, so go ahead and spread the word.

And for those of you who can't make it Wednesday, or simply can't get enough of OSRF and ROS, please look for us on Thursday at Xconomy's Robo Madness 2014. Hosted by Xconomy's Wade Roush, Robo Madness takes place at SRI International from 1:00 to 5:40 pm so get yourself signed up right away. Our own Brian Gerkey will be on stage at 1:25 discussing ROS, and then again at 5:20 on a wrap-up panel discussion moderated by John Markoff of The New York Times.

HERE mapping cars run ROS

As reported at HERE Three Sixty, their global fleet of hundreds of mapping cars is running ROS!

HERE car

They carry laser range-finders, cameras, and GPS that are used to estimate the vehicle's posisiton and gather 3-D pictures of the surrounding environment. That data gets shipped back to their headquarters for processing.

As HERE's Michael Prados put it, "The system of sensors and computers means the software that's needed is very like that which is used to create robots." So they decided to build their cars' software on ROS. The software runs on a headless server in the car's interior, with the driver interacting via a mobile application on a tablet that he or she can operate easily from the seat.

HERE car interior

"We chose the open source ROS because it was the best solution, hands-down," Michael concludes. "And now we're looking into the ways that we might give back to OSRF, and help its future success."

Read the whole story at HERE Three Sixty.


Update (March 13): The launch has been delayed to the end of March.

Albert II is famous for being the first monkey in space, in June 1949. Laika is equally renowned for being the first animal to orbit the Earth, in 1957. On Sunday, March 16th, at 4:41am (unless inclement weather intervenes), ROS will celebrate its own celestial milestone when it is launched into space aboard a SpaceX rocket as part of a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Albert II

In conjunction with NASA's Robot Rocket Rally March 14-16 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX's third mission will include a set of robotic legs for the Robonaut 2 (R2) humanoid torso that is currently aboard the ISS. Once those legs are attached to R2, ROS will officially be running in space.

For the last few years, the NASA/GM team at the Johnson Space Center has been using ROS for R2 development here on Earth. We first heard about that at ROSCon 2012 in Stephen Hart's keynote presentation, where he described how they combine ROS and OROCOS RTT to achieve flexible, real-time control of R2. Following the launch this weekend, that open source software will be running on the R2 that's on ISS.

Robonaut 2 legs
Robonaut 2 simulation

The R2 team also uses the open source Gazebo simulator to simulate R2 when they're doing development and testing. They've released their models of R2 and ISS as open source for the community to work with. We recently integrated those models into an immersive teleoperation Gazebo demonstration that we'll be running at the Robot Rocket Rally this weekend. Drop by our booth and find out what it's like to "be" Robonaut 2!

ROS has already powered robots in the air, on the ground, on and under the water, and on every continent, but we at OSRF couldn't be more excited about ROS journeying to outer space.

OSRF in the Google Summer of Code v2014

The summer is well known for school holidays, baths in paradisiacal beaches, mojitos, ... but nothing comparable to a Summer of Code! OSRF is participating in the 10th Anniversary of Google Summer of Code.

Do you want to spend your summer doing real-world software development, contributing to robotics projects like Gazebo, ROS, and CloudSim, and engaging with the global robotics community, all while getting paid? Then check out our GSoC 2014 site. You'll also want to read through our ideas page, which lists projects that we're interested in. Feel free to ask questions and propose suggestions at The student application period starts March 10th. Get ready for a robotics coding summer!.

OSRF at the Robot Rocket Rally and SpaceX Launch!

Robot Rocket Rally logo

Next week, OSRF will be at the Robot Rocket Rally at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral! Stop by our booth between Friday, March 14 and Sunday, March 16th to try out one (or both!) of our Oculus Rift demos. Teleoperate a simulated version of NASA's Robonaut-2 in the International Space Station, or try your hand at clearing rubble with the Atlas robot. You may have seen the Atlas robot compete in the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials in Homestead, Florida.

The Robot Rocket Rally celebrates "the latest in robotic technology from NASA, industry leaders and universities." The event coincides with the SpaceX launch that is delivering robotic legs to the Robonaut-2 aboard the ISS, along with life-sustaining supplies for those humans aboard.

Stop by our booth to play with the demos, have a chat, or pick up some stickers. Look for us in the big tent in the Rocket Garden!

Robonaut-2 and ISS models in Gazebo

ROS Kong 2014 Announced

Cross posted from ROS Blog

We're pleased to announce that we will be hosting ROS Kong 2014, an international ROS users group meeting, in Hong Kong on June 6th, immediately following ICRA. This one-day event will complement ROSCon 2014, which will happen later in the year (see below).

ROS Kong 2014 will feature invited speakers, lightning talks, and Birds-of-a-Feather sessions. There will be plenty of time to meet other ROS users both from Asia and around the world.

If you are interested in attending, please save the date: Friday June 6th, 2014. We will be setting up registration and distributing more information in the coming month. We have a large auditorium but registration will be limited.

If you have any questions or are interested in sponsoring the event please contact us at

In related news, we are tentatively planning to hold ROSCon 2014 in Chicago in September, in conjunction with IROS. Stay tuned for more on that event.

Project Tango Announced

Project Tango was just announced by Google’s ATAP group ( The project developed 3D localization and mapping capable of running in real-time on a phone. We expect the technology developed as part of Project Tango to be transformative for the robotics industry and are proud to have been a part of the process.

OSRF has been a partner with ATAP on the Tango project since May 2013. Our role was to bring our open source ROS ( software and expertise to bear on the problems that Tango is tackling. While Tango isn't strictly a robotics project, there is a lot of similarity between their needs and what we have encountered over the years working with robots.

Among our contributions were developer tools for debugging, data logging, and data visualization. Project Tango used popular ROS tools, including rviz and rosbag, for development and debugging on a second screen, such as a desktop or laptop, both for live and recorded data.

Somewhat surprisingly, we also helped out with managing the complex code base that became Tango. With a large team of geographically distributed developers working at a furious pace, it's not easy to keep track of the software in a project like this. Fortunately, we're intimately familiar with this challenge from the past six years of ROS development. Project Tango was able to leverage the catkin build system developed for the ROS ecosystem to bring together the work from their many contributors.

In addition to integrating new code, catkin was used to integrate many existing libraries including familiar ROS dependencies such as OctoMap, OpenCV, and Eigen. To support both on-device and desktop debugging, catkin was used to enable compiling for Android devices as well as desktop targets from the same source tree.

Our work on Project Tango resulted in new features, bug fixes, and polish being added to many of our core tools, all of which have been made available to our community.

OSRF welcomes Esteve Fernandez

OSRF is pleased to welcome Esteve Fernandez! After working for many years on distributed systems, Esteve switched gears and pursued a career in robotics. He also enjoys writing software and sharing it with others, so combining opensource and robotics is an exciting opportunity for him.

Esteve holds a MSc in Artificial Inteligence and Robotics and M.S.E. and B.S.E. in Computer Engineering, and has been a professional developer for over 10 years. He is a member of the Apache Software Foundation and a frequent speaker at opensource conferences, such as PyCon US and EuroPython.

Overall, Esteve found in robotics the perfect excuse for playing with Lego in his 30s without getting weird looks.

Reflecting on the VRC and the DRC Trials

Having recovered from our exhilirating (and exhausting) trip to the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials in Florida, we've been mulling over the results of the Trials and looking back on the simulation-based Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) that we held in the summer.

As you'll recall, the goals of the VRC were two-fold. First, we wanted to identify the teams from around the world who are the best at writing software for remote supervisory control of a humanoid robot in disaster response situations. After the VRC, the top seven teams were given access to an Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics, with which they then competed in the Trials. And because they only had a few months between receiving their robot and heading to the Trials, the second goal of the VRC was to force teams to build and test their software in simulation so that they could be up and running with a working system as soon as they took delivery of the Atlas hardware.

Looking at the results, we're feeling pretty good about the VRC. At the Trials, which saw sixteen teams compete, five of the top eight teams were previously top finishers in the VRC (the top eight from the Trials qualified for continued DARPA funding). And their relative performance at the Trials almost matched their relative performance in the VRC:

TeamDRC Trials finishVRC finish
IHMC Robotics2nd1st

So a majority of the top teams at the Trials had first competed and won in simulation, and they were then able to transition their software from simulation to hardware in a very short period of time (they had also received a very capable Atlas robot, which surely contributed to their successes).

We're proud of these results and we feel that they bode well for the use of simulation in future robotics projects, in competitions, and in education.

It's also worth noting that team WRECS started out as an unfunded "Track C" team, yet placed 2nd in the VRC and 6th in the Trials, outperforming most of the fully funded teams along the way. Perhaps we'll see more of this kind of non-traditional source selection in future programs.

OSRF welcomes our OPW participants

The OPW logo

OSRF is pleased to welcome Louise Penna Poubel, Tashwin Khurana, Binnur Görer and Ana Marian Pedro, our interns for the Outreach Program for Women!

OPW 2013 participants

Louise got her B.S. in Electromechanical engineering from Chiba University in 2011 and her double M.S. from the European Master in Advanced Robotics (EMARO) at Warsaw University of Technology and Ecole Centrale de Nantes in 2013. Her masters research focused on whole-body online imitation of human motion by humanoid robots, using the Nao robot and the Kinect sensor. At OSRF, she will be adapting the WebGL interface of Gazebo to work on mobile devices. In her free time, she enjoys 3D printing, puzzles, traveling and extreme sports.

Louise's blog:

Tashwin is pursuing a Master's in Computer Science at Lehigh University. She has been working at the VADER lab (Vision, Assistive Devices, and Experimental Robotics Laboratory) with Prof. Dr. John Spletzer for over a year and loving every minute of it! Tashwin has been focusing on the Lehigh Mapping Trike project, which will be used as a means to construct large-scale, three-dimensional maps in outdoor pedestrian zones. As an OPW intern, Tashwin will be building an Open Street Maps (OSM) API plugin for the Gazebo Simulator.

Tashwin's blog:

Binnur is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Computer Engineering, Boğaziçi University. She has recently completed her MSc. thesis which is titled "Developing a Fitness Coach Robot for Elderly People in Assisted Living Environments". Binnur's supervisor is H. Levent Akın. She is a member of the Robotics Research Group and the Cerberus RoboCup Standard Platform League Team. Binnur's research focuses on social robotics. As an OPW intern, she aims to integrate an SDF editor into Gazebo. This contribution will allow users to make changes in the current model while the simulator is running.

Binnur's blog:

Ana Pedro is an M.Sc. Computer Science Candidate and a member of the Center for Automation Research in De La Salle University, Manila. She is currently working on her thesis on mobile robot localization and is interested in developing robotic applications for children and education. Ana Pedro will be working on an educational challenge using CloudSim, ROS and Gazebo.

Ana Pedro's blog:

We're excited to see the work that Louise, Tashwin, Binnur and Ana Pedro will be doing over the next few months. Check their blogs often to follow along with their experiences and contributions!

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