What's in the Box: Logging and Playback with rosbag

Logging and playback is one of the most critical features when developing software for robotics. Whether you're a hardware engineer recording diagnostic data, a researcher collecting data sets, or a developer testing algorithms, the ability to record data from a robot and play it back is crucial. ROS supports these needs with "Bag files" and tools like rosbag and rxbag.

rosbag can record data from any ROS data source into a bag file, whether it be simple text data or large sensor data, like images. The tool can also record data from programs running on multiple computers. rosbag can play back this data just as it was recorded -- it looks identical. This means that data can be recorded from a physical robot and used to create virtual robots to test software. With the appropriate bag file, you don't even need to own a physical robot.

There are a variety of tools to help you manage your stored data, such as tools for filtering data and updating data formats. There are also tools to manage research workflows for sending bag files to Amazon's Mechanical Turk for dataset labeling.  For data visualization, there is the versatile rxbag tool. rxbag can scan through camera data like a movie editor, plot numerical data, and view the raw message data. You can also write plugins to define viewers for your own data types.

You can watch the video to see rosbag and rxbag in action. Both of these tools are part of the ROS Box Turtle release, which you can download from ROS.org.