What's Coming Up: Arm Navigation


Efforts are underway to develop a navigation stack for the arms analogous to the navigation stack for mobile bases. This includes a wide range of libraries that can be used for collision detection, trajectory filtering, motion planning for robot manipulators, and specific implementations of kinematics for the PR2 robot.

As part of this effort, Willow Garage is happy to announce the release of our first set of research stacks for arm motion planning. These stacks include a high-level arm_navigation stack, as well as general-purpose stacks called motion_planners, motion_planning_common, motion_planning_environment, motion_planning_visualization, kinematics, collision_environment, and trajectory_filters. There are also several PR2-specific stacks. All of these stacks can be installed on top of Box Turtle:

Installation Page

Significant contributions were made to this set of stacks by our collaborators and interns over the past two years:

  • Ioan Şucan (from Lydia Kavraki's lab at Rice) developed the initial version of this framework while an intern at Willow Garage over the summer of 2008 and 2009, and has continued to contribute significantly since. His contributions include the OMPL planning library that contains a variety of probabilistic planners including ones developed by Lydia Kavraki's lab over the years.
  • Maxim Likhachev's group at Penn (including Ben Cohen, who was a summer intern at Willow Garage in 2009) contributed the SBPL planning library that incorporates the latest techniques in search based motion planning.
  • Mrinal Kalakrishnan from USC developed the CHOMP motion planning library while he was an intern at Willow Garage in 2009. This library is based on the work of Nathan Ratliff, Matthew Zucker, J. Andrew Bagnell and Siddhartha Srinivasa.

Additional contributions also came from Radu Rusu, Matei Ciocarlei and Kaijen Hsiao (from Willow Garage) and Rosen Diankov (from CMU).

These stacks are currently classified as research stacks, which means that they have unstable APIs and are expected to change. We expect the core libraries to reach maturity fairly quickly and be released as stable software stacks, while other stacks will continue to incorporate the latest in motion planning research from the world-wide robotics community. We encourage the community to try them out to provide feedback and contribute. A good starting point is the arm_navigation wiki page. There is also a growing list of tutorials.

Here are some blog posts of demos that show these stacks in use:

  1. JSK demo (pr2_kinematics)
  2. Robot replugged (pr2_kinematics)
  3. Hierarchical planning (OMPL, move_arm)
  4. Towers of Hanoi (move_arm)
  5. Detecting tabletop objects (move_arm)

You can also watch the videos below that feature the work of Ben Cohen, Mrinal Kalakrishnan, and Ioan Şucan.

The individual stack and package wiki pages have descriptions of the current status. We have undergone a ROS API review for most packages, but the C++ APIs have not yet been reviewed. We encourage you to use the ROS API -- we will make our best effort to keep this API stable. The C++ APIs are being actively worked on (see the Roadmap on each Wiki page for more details) and we expect to be able to stabilize a few of them in the next release cycle.

Please feel free to point out bugs, make feature requests, and tell us how we can do better. We particularly encourage developers of motion planners to look at integrating their motion planners into this effort. We have made an attempt to modularize the architecture of this system so that components developed by the community can be easily plugged in. We also encourage researchers who may use these stacks on other robots to get back to us with feedback about their experience.

Best Regards,

Your friendly neighborhood arm navigation development team

Sachin Chitta, Gil Jones (Willow Garage)
Ioan Şucan (Rice University)
Ben Cohen (University of Pennsylvania)
Mrinal Kalakrishnan (USC)


Ioan Şucan, OMPL (blog post):

Ben Cohen, SBPL (blog post):

Mrinal Kalakrishnan, CHOMP (blog post):