Mark Shuttleworth (Canonical): Commercial Models for the Robot Generation

In 2004, Canonical released the first version of Ubuntu, a Debian-based open source Linux OS that provides one of the main operational foundations of ROS. Canonical’s founder, Mark Shuttleworth, was CEO of the company until 2009, when he transitioned to a leadership role that lets him focus more on product design and partnerships. In 2002, Mark spent eight days aboard the International Space Station, but that was before the ISS was home to a ROS-powered robot. He currently lives on the Isle of Man with 18 ducks and an occasional sheep. Ubuntu was a platinum co-sponsor of ROSCon 2015, and Mark gave the opening keynote on developing a business in the robot age.

Changes in society and business are both driven by changes in technology, Mark says, encouraging those developing technologies to consider the larger consequences that their work will have, and how those consequences will result in more opportunities. Shuttleworth suggests that robotics developers really need two things at this point: a robust Internet of Things infrastructure, followed by the addition of dynamic mobility that robots represent. However, software is a much more realistic business proposition for a robotics startup, especially if you leverage open source to create a developer community around your product and let others innovate through what you’ve built.

To illustrate this principle, Mark shows a live demo of a hexapod called Erle-Spider, along with a robust, high-level ‘meta’ build and packaging tool called Snapcraft. Snapcraft makes it easy for users to install software and for developers to structure and distribute it without having to worry about conflicts or inter-app security. The immediate future promises opportunities for robotics in entertainment and education, Mark says, especially if hardware, ROS, and an app-like economy can come together to give developers easy, reliable ways to bring their creations to market.

ROSCon 2015 Hamburg: Day 1 – Mark Shuttleworth: Commercial models for the robot generation from OSRF on Vimeo.

Next up: Stefan Kohlbrecher of Technische Universitaet Darmstadt
Check out last week’s post: OSRF’s Brian Gerkey

Gazebo Updates

A few noteworthy events related to Gazebo have occurred over the previous couple months. A new version of Gazebo has been released, simulation tutorials have received an overhaul, and a new ArduPilot plugin for Gazebo has been created.

Gazebo 7 release

At the beginning of January, the we began to prepare for the release of Gazebo 7. This involved wrapping up a set of outstanding features and significant testing. On January 25th, Gazebo 7 was officially released. This version will have support for five years, and adds a variety of new and exciting features including a graphical model editor, torsional friction, wide angle camera sensor, and numerous performance improvements and bug fixes. Over the next year, we will focus on Gazebo’s user experience. To date, a lot of time has been spent perfecting physics and sensor simulation. This effort was vital for the Virtual Robotics Competition and other projects. Our focus now is to polish Gazebo into a tool that is more approachable by designers, engineers, students, and anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable using linux and/or a terminal.

Gazebo Tutorials

Documentation and support materials are extremely important, especially when using a complex system like Gazebo. First time users of Gazebo typically face a large learning curve that can be daunting. In an effort to reduce this learning curve, we have added new tutorials and restructured the tutorial system. A new section, called Guided, features tutorials that offer more structure. The first set of Guided tutorials are targeted to beginners. Over the next few months additional tutorials for intermediate and advanced users will be added.

Guided tutorials

ArduPilot Gazebo Plugin

Developers at DIY Drones have created a new ArduPilot plugin for Gazebo. Check out their blog post for more information. Their demo video, below, is an impressive demonstration of the ArduPilot plugin and Gazebo.

ROSCon Program Video – Brian Gerkey

ROSCon is an annual conference focused on ROS, the Robot Operating System. Every year, hundreds of ROS developers of all skill levels and backgrounds, from industry to academia, come together to teach, learn, and show off their latest projects. ROSCon 2015 was held in Hamburg, Germany. Beginning today and each week thereafter, we’ll be highlighting one of the talks presented at ROSCon 2015.

Brian Gerkey (OSRF): Opening Remarks

Brian Gerkey is the CEO of the Open Source Robotics Foundation, which oversees core ROS development and helps to coordinate the efforts of the ROS community. Brian helped found OSRF in 2012, after directing open source development at Willow Garage.

Unless you’d like to re-live the ROSCon Logistics Experience, you can skip to 5:10 in Brian’s opening remarks, where he provides an overview of ROSCon attendees and ROS user metrics that shows how diverse the ROS community has become. Brian touches on what’s happened with ROS over the last year, along with the future of ROS and OSRF, and what we have to look forward to in 2016. Brian also touches on DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track program, which has a submission deadline of January 31, 2016.

ROSCon 2015 Hamburg: Day 1 – Opening Remarks from OSRF on Vimeo.

Next up, Mark Shuttleworth from Canonical.

ROS Turns 8

[Cross-posted from the ROS blog.]

ROS 8 Years-thumb-640x358-1326

Eight years ago, Morgan Quigley, Eric Berger and Andrew Ng published a paper that was not about ROS. It was about STAIR, the STanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, which used a library called Switchyard to pass messages between software modules to perform complex manipulation tasks like stapler grasping. Switchyard was a purpose-built framework that was designed to be modular and robot-independent, and it was such a good idea that in 2009, “ROS: An Open-Source Robot Operating System” was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Japan. As of this month, the paper introducing ROS has been cited 2,020 times, an increase of more than 50% over last year.

The popularity of one single paper is only a minor indicator of the popularity of the robot operating system that it introduced. At eight years old, ROS is growing faster than ever, and helping the robotics community to grow along with it. We’re especially excited to see how brand new startups have been taking advantage of the open source nature of ROS to help them develop useful, reliable robots that are creating entirely new markets. In 2015 alone, more than $150 million in VC funding (that we know of) was invested in businesses that utilize ROS.

Large, established companies have been taking more and more notice of ROS as well. At ROSCon this year, Fetch Robotics was joined as a platinum sponsor by Ubuntu, and a record number of gold sponsors included NVIDIA, Bosch, and Qualcomm and attendees from companies such as BMW, DJI, Intel and more. ROSCon 2015 was by far the largest conference we’ve ever had: it sold out weeks in advance.  Clearly next year we’re going to have to find a much bigger venue to make room for more attendees, more speakers, and more exhibitors.

Taking a look at how much our community has grown this year, it’s easy to see why ROSCon has become so popular: it’s a reflection of the enthusiasm and engagement of the ROS user base. In May 2015 alone, nearly nine million ROS packages were downloaded from over 70,000 unique IP addresses, and these numbers don’t even count mirrors. This suggests that ROS probably has hundreds of thousands of active users. We also have a very robust developer community: 1,840 people have contributed to ROS’ 10 million lines of code, averaging 20 commits per day. The ROS wiki has gotten 10% bigger since last year, and there are over 11,000 users on ROS Answers, a 32% increase over last year, with a total of more than 5,000 questions answered. It’s numbers like these that make us so confident in the long term future of ROS.

Counting ROS

Because of the nature of the ROS license, we actually don’t know how many users, robots, and developers there are utilizing ROS.  Many of the numbers that we are citing throughout are likely to be much larger.  For example, we specifically know of approximately 80 types of robots using ROS, but almost every day we hear about new ones.  And not every company using ROS discloses so publicly, so our estimates on venture capital investment can be better characterized as lower bounds than estimates.

If you’re not part of the ROS community yet, there’s never been a better time to get involved. Even if you don’t have experience with robots or programming, there’s a wide variety of low-cost robots and helpful online tutorials that can get you started, and we’re also delighted to announce (just in time for the holidays!) that O’Reilly Media has published “Programming Robots with ROS: A Practical Introduction to the Robot Operating System,” by Morgan Quigley, Brian Gerkey, and Bill Smart, which will take you from zero to ROS expert in just 448 pages.

Learning ROS will allow you to do all kinds of cool stuff with more than 80 robotic platforms. You can choose from the capable, affordable TurtleBot, one of the many sophisticated humanoid robots that competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, or even NASA’s Robonaut, currently undergoing testing on the International Space Station. Robots powered by ROS are everywhere, and here are just a few of them:

For full frame clips see the long version of the montage.

Of course, we have no idea how many robots are actually running ROS, or how many people or companies are using it, because ROS is open source and completely free. We’re often surprised to learn that cutting edge robots that we’re already familiar with are powered by ROS, as when BMW announced at ROSCon that they’ve been using ROS in their autonomous cars for the past few years. We weren’t at all surprised to hear why BMW chose ROS for its autonomous driving research, though: they appreciate its popularity, its stability and reliability based on a large user base, the fact that it makes it easy to collaborate, and its open source nature.

As the ROS community has grown, various special interest groups have organized to promote ROS for specific application domains. The ROS Industrial Consortium is one such group.  ROS-I is a software library that builds on ROS and leverages its power and flexibility to control manufacturing automation equipment including industrial robot arms. It is supported by the 36-member organizations comprised of companies such as 3M, ABB, BMW, Ford, Boeing, Siemens and more.  Representatives from Boeing, Caterpillar, Yaskawa and more speak on behalf of ROS and ROS-I in this video.

2016 is poised to be the biggest year ever for ROS, and we’d like to highlight two things that are worth getting particularly excited about. The first is ROS 2.0, which we’ve been developing for the past few years. ROS 2 will support the growth of the ROS community by making it much easier to work with small embedded systems, teams of multiple robots, and robots that require real-time control. We’d also like to make sure you’re familiar with Robotics Fast Track (RFT), which is  a program that we’re working on with DARPA. It’s an easy way for you to get government funding for your awesome robotics ideas without having to give up any of your IP, and absolutely anyone can apply.

We write these anniversary posts to help give you a sense of how ROS has a whole has been doing over the past year, but we’d certainly encourage you to find out for yourself, by getting 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 all of the incredibly awesome ROS users themselves. If you’re already an active part of the ROS community, we can’t thank you enough, and if you’re not, think about it: you can help ROS grow and thrive for eight more years, and beyond.

Looking Forward to the Robot Economy

OSRF CEO, Brian Gerkey, was recently asked to contribute his thoughts as part of O’Reilly Media’s recent Next: Economy Summit. Called “WTF”, the event tackled the issues of how work, business and society face massive technology-driven change. His contribution was entitled: “Looking Forward to the Robot Economy”. Check out the excerpt, below.

Let’s talk about robots. In the near future, robots will learn how to do more and more of the things that we humans are used to doing ourselves. Watching the progress of robotic technology over the last several years has caused a wild and so far mostly theoretical economic panic about the future of humans in the workplace. But despite the flood of articles suggesting that the human worker is doomed, robots are almost certainly not going to take your job anytime soon.

The complete post is here.

Join Us for DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track West Coast Tour, Nov. 17-19

RFT logo

Open Source Robotics Foundation is joining DARPA and Tandem National Security Innovations on the road to spread the word about DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track Program. We’re proud to support the opportunity for startups and roboticists to receive $150,000 to build a robot prototype.

Join us in Seattle, Redwood City, Livermore, San Diego (or all four!) to learn more about the innovative program designed to make it easier to get projects funded in weeks, not months or years by the Pentagon’s leading advanced research lab. Whether you’re a roboticist, technologist, or entrepreneur, you’ll want to join us for this rare opportunity. The events will begin with an informational session to discuss the program followed by the opportunity for attendees to meet privately with representatives from DARPA, OSRF and TandemNSI to ask specific questions about individual projects. Food and drink will be provided at each of our free events so come out and join us.

Seattle Event Details

Date/Time: Nov. 17, 2015 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: The Maker’s Space (92 Lenora Street, Seattle, WA 98121)
Register Here

Northern California Event Details

Lunch in Livermore
Date/Time: Nov. 18, 2015 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: i-GATE Innovation Hub (2324 Second St, Livermore, CA 94550)
Register Here

Evening in Redwood City
Date/Time: Nov. 18, 2015 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: TechShop Mid Peninsula (2415 Bay Road, Redwood City, CA 94063)
Register Here

San Diego Event Details

Date/Time: Nov. 19, 2015 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: The Basement — UC San Diego (9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093)
Register Here

To learn even more about the program, the Robotics Fast Track website has specifics on how to apply, and more details on the technologies that DARPA seeks. We look forward to seeing you at one of the West Coast events!

Happy Halloween!

OSRF in costume
Happy Halloween from OSRF! Our commitment to wearing costumes at work is as strong as our commitment to open source software!

Tune in to ROSCon 2015, Oct. 3-4

ROSCon 2015 logo

This year’s ROSCon is nearly upon us. If you haven’t yet made plans to get yourself to Hamburg, then you are out of luck as this year’s ROSCon has sold out. The good news is that we are live streaming ROSCon presentations free of charge, courtesy of Qualcomm.

Click here for the live stream beginning 9:00 a.m. CEST, 2015, 12:00 a.m. PDT or 3:00 a.m. EDT on October 3, 2015.

All sessions will also be recorded and made available for viewing in the near future. Follow @OSRFoundation for announcements about their availability.

A final thank you to Platinum Sponsors Fetch Robotics and Ubuntu; Gold Sponsors 3D Robotics, Bosch, Clearpath Robotics, GaiTech, Magazino, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Rethink Robotics, Robotis, Robotnik, ROS-Industrial, Shadow Robot Company, SICK and Synapticon; and Silver Sponsors Erle Robotics and Northwestern University, McCormick School of Engineering.

Check out the program here.

If you’re attending in-person, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Gazebo Rendering Abstraction

During his internship with OSRF, Mike Kasper developed a new ignition-robotics rendering library. The key feature of this library is that it provides an abstract render-engine interface for building and rendering scenes. This allows the library to employ multiple underlying render engines. The motivation for this work was to extend Gazebo’s rendering capabilities to provide near photo-realistic imagery for simulated camera sensors. This could then be utilized for the development and testing of perceptions algorithms.

As Gazebo currently employs the Object-Oriented Graphics Rendering Engine (OGRE), an OGRE-based implementation has been added to the ignition-rendering library. Additionally, a render-engine using NVIDIA’s OptiX ray-tracing engine has also been implemented. The current OptiX-based render-engine employs simple ray-tracing techniques, but will employ physically based path-tracing techniques in the future to generate photo-realistic imagery.

The following videos give an overview of the libraries’ current capabilities:

Source code for the ignition-rendering library is available here:

Fifty Planes in the Air Running ROS & Gazebo

The Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Lab at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA recently flew fifty small autonomous planes together using ROS.

Each plane – a styrofoam wing with a 56” wingspan – was equipped with a Pixhawk autopilot running a modified version of the open-source Ardupilot firmware and an ODroid u3 “payload” computer running ROS Indigo. The payload used autopilot_bridge (similar to mavros) to bridge between serial communications with the autopilot and ROS messages and services. A network node bridged ROS communications with a lightweight UDP-based protocol that allowed aircraft to share their pose and status with one another and to receive commands from the ground.

Also residing on the payload was a set of controller nodes that could “drive” the plane by sending updated target latitude-longitude-altitude commands to the autopilot. Controllers were individually activated by a state machine, based on commands from the ground. The controller used during the fifty-plane flight was a follower controller. A single ground operator commanded two sets of 25 planes each to configure themselves into leader-follower formations; planes would determine a leader based on highest altitude (which was deconflicted at the start of the flight). The leader would then proceed along a predefined racetrack, and all followers, listening to the broadcast position of the leader, would track its path while remaining at their designated altitudes.

A detailed writeup of the flight test is posted at DIY Drones and more information on the research project can be found at the ARSENL website.