Willow Garage Blog

April 21, 2010

University of Freiburg's Wolfram Burgard and Willow Garage's Gary Bradksi will be co-chairing the Personal and Service Robots session on Tuesday, May 4.  This session will take place from 2:20 pm to 3:50 pm in the Egan Center Lower Level, Room 1.  Among the speakers will be Melonee Wise, presenting the paper titled Autonomous Door Opening and Plugging in with a Personal Robot.  This paper discusses our second Milestone, during which the PR2 navigated around the building, opening doors and plugging itself into wall outlets.

For more information, click on the link above and check out the videos below.

April 21, 2010

Robots Using ROS

The third installment of Robots Using ROS features robots big and small:

  • TUM-Rosie: TU München built a Kuka-based mobile manipulation platform to research robots with a high-degree of cognition.
  • CKbots: the Modlab's small, modular robots are too small to run ROS themselves, but they can connect to a ROS system to test algorithms that need a bit more horsepower.
  • Marvin: the autonomous car from Austin Robot Technology and UT Austin competed in the DARPA Urban Challenge and has now been ported to ROS.
  • HERB: the mobile manipulator, based on a Segway RMP200 and Barrett arm, was built to be a "robotic butler" and is used as a collaboration between Intel Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Previously Part I, Part II:

  • Care-O-bot 3: Fraunhofer IPA's mobile manipulation platform has broad support for ROS. The accompanying open-source repository includes everything from device drivers to simulation in Gazebo.
  • Bosch RTC's robot: Bosch RTC's Segway RMP-based robot has been used to develop new ROS libraries, including an exploration stack.
  • EL-E and Cody: Georgia Tech's Healthcare Robotics Lab has released drivers and has also released code to accompany research papers.
  • Kawada HPR2-V: the JSK Lab at Tokyo University has integrated this omni-directional variant of the HRP-2 with the ROS navigation stack.
  • Prairie Dog: the Correll Lab at Colorado University uses this iRobot Create-based platform for teaching and research.
  • STAIR 1: the Stanford University mobile manipulation research platform that provided the predecessor of the ROS framework.
  • Aldebaran Nao: a small, commercially available humanoid robot that demonstrated the ability of the ROS community (Brown University and University of Freiburg) to come together and develop open source drivers.
  • i-Sobot: an even smaller humanoid robot controlled by the ROS PS3 joystick driver. The developer has been publishing a Japanese-language blog on ROS, helping ROS reach new audiences.
  • Junior: Stanford Racing's autonomous car that finished a close second in the DARPA Urban Challenge. Junior's main software framework is IPC, but ROS's modular libraries have made it easy to integrate ROS-based perception libraries into their obstacle classification system.
April 20, 2010


UPDATE: this tutorial is now full and registration is closed.

As we mentioned a while back, a group of ROS experts will be teaching a full-day ROS tutorial on May 7.  The event, "Tutorial on ROS: from nodes and messages to sensing, planning, and control", will be taught by Brian Gerkey, Gary Bradski, Ken Conley, Eitan Marder-Eppstein, Morgan Quigley, and Melonee Wise. Participants will use existing ROS software libraries, while also learning to write new code.  You'll get a hands-on opportunity to work on the PR2, as well as in simulation.  

Attendees should be comfortable writing Python code, though need not be experts. Familiarity with ROS is encouraged but not required.

If you'd like to participate, please sign up for workshops when you register for the conference. In addition, please be sure to email Bianca at sotob (at) willowgarage (dot) com, letting her know that you'll be in attendance.  Please visit our ROS Tutorial website and closely follow the "Required Setup" instructions to set up your laptop before the tutorial.

       This full-day workshop will take place on Friday, May 7 (9:00 am-12:30 pm and 2:00 pm-5:30 pm) in Egan Center, La Perouse Hall.

April 19, 2010


We're very excited to announce that the mapping library from SRI International's Karto Robotics is now open source with an LGPL license. This mapping library contains a scan matcher, pose graph, loop detection, and occupancy grid construction -- all important building blocks for 2D navigation. When combined with Willow Garage's Sparse Pose Adjustment (SPA) for optimization (in the sba ROS package), it forms a complete stand-alone library for robust 2D mapping.

The Karto mapping library is being hosted on code.ros.org, and we've already integrated it with the ROS navigation stack. The Karto team recently benchmarked various SLAM systems on the RAWSEEDS dataset and found that newest Karto 2.0 with SPA is slightly less precise than Karto 1.1, but Karto 2.0 was more consistent and faster [1]. The maximum error with Karto 2.0 performed as well as a localization-based solution (MCL). A paper describing the SPA technique is due to be published later this year.

We'd like to thank the Karto team for all the hard work that went into making this happen. You can visit kartorobotics.com to find out more about Karto as well as contact them regarding Karto integration services. For more information on research like SPA at Willow Garage, please see the perception and motion planning research areas.

[1]: "Comparison of indoor robot localization techniques in the absence of GPS, Vincent, Regis, Limketkai, Benson, and Eriksen, Michael, In Proceedings of SPIE Volume: 7664 Detection and Sensing of Mines, Explosive Objects, and Obscured Targets XV (Proceedings Volume) of Defense, Security, and Sensing Symposium.


Karto SRI/Willow Garage Integration Team: Kurt Konolige, Benson Limketkai, Michael Eriksen, Regis Vincent, Brian Gerkey, Eitan Marder-Eppstein

April 15, 2010

SRI Junior Texai Telepresence Chat Stickybot Playing with the SRI robot Meka arm BOSCH RTC Neato vacuum robot

We had a great time at the Stanford Robot Block Party. The PR2 was there to show off its 3D sensors, and Texai were roaming about. Employees from Willow Garage used the Texai to attend the Stanford Block Party virtually and chat with attendees, and attendees were able to drive a Texai at Willow Garage to get a tour of our workplace.

It was an amazing event -- thousands of people, including lots of kids, were in attendance to see what the local robotics community is building. Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system had people lined up to try their hand at teleoperated surgery, Stanford's Stickybot was showing off it's wall-climbing powers, Neato Robotics' XV-11 was keeping its section of the floor clean, and there were robots of every shape and size on display. It was also a great show for the ROS community. Stanford's autonomous car Junior and Bosch RTC's robot were in attendance, and people could play with the Meka arm used by Cody at Georgia Tech's Healthcare Robotics Lab

For more photos, please check out our gallery on Flickr.

April 15, 2010

ROS 1.1.2 has been released. This is an unstable release to test new features for ROS.

The major new feature with this release is integration of roslisp. roslisp is a full-featured Common Lisp client library for ROS that is being developed by Bhaskara Marthi (Willow Garage) and Lorenz Mösenlechner (TUM). We are now including it in the ROS stack to enable you to more easily access its capabilities, especially in shared install setups where ROS messages have already been built.

This update does not require ROS users to install Lisp. We have created a separate "roslisp_support" stack with a "roslisp_runtime" package that will trigger an install of SBCL, when required. Current users will have to make sure to add a dependency on the roslisp_runtime package so that installation scripts work properly.

Another major update in this release is performance updates for rospy message serialization. The new optimizations should result in performance improvement of 2x or better for many types of messages, mainly thank to James Bowman's patches.

As with our previous unstable releases, we ask that general users refrain from updating to this release unless they need to test integration for the upcoming C-turtle distribution. We do recommend that roslisp users test this new setup and provide feedback on this new roslisp core integration.

For more updates in this release, please see the full change list

-- your friendly neighborhood ROS team

April 13, 2010

Willow Garage's Gary Bradski, Radu Bogdan Rusu, Sachin Chitta, and John Hsu have teamed up to teach a Stanford class on perception for manipulation using OpenCV and ROS.  In order to help others who may be teaching similar classes, all of the course materials are being posted online. Feedback is welcome.

The project-based course investigates the theory and practice of the algorithms, software, and sensing devices used for mobile manipulation.  We're very excited to see the projects that come out of this new course.

To learn more about the class, check out the CS324 Perception for Manipulation website.

April 13, 2010


Above: Grabcut example

OpenCV 2.1 has been released. In addition to many improvements underneath the hood, OpenCV 2.1 adds the Grabcut (C. Rother, V. Kolmogorov, and A. Blake) image segmentation algorithm. The stereo libraries have also been updated with new and improved algorithms, including H. Hirschmuller's semi-global stereo matching algorithm (SGBM).

Mac OS X users will be happy to know that OpenCV has been updated for Snow Leopard. You can now build it as a 64-bit library and highgui has been updated with new Cocoa and QTKit backends (thanks Andre Cohen and Nicolas Butko). Windows users can also build on 64-bit using MSVC 2008 or mingw64.

There are numerous other improvements with this release. We encourage users to check the change list to find out more.

On an administrative note, OpenCV has migrated from SourceForge to code.ros.org to take advantage of faster servers. The ticket tracker has also moved.

April 12, 2010

Just a reminder that we'll be at the Stanford University event for National Robotics week this coming Wednesday, April 14, 12-6pm at Paul Brest Hall (Munger Building 4, 555 Salvatierra Walk). We're bringing a PR2 and a Texai, so stop on by! Check here for more information.

April 7, 2010

After the completion of our second Milestone, the PR2 had a marathon under its metaphorical belt, and the know-how to detect wall outlets and plug itself in for recharging.  More recently, we revamped the robot's plugging technique with the help of improved robot calibration practices, and we've developed a new web-based interface that makes it easier than ever to interact with the robot. With all these pieces in place, it was time to create the "24 Hour Robot": a PR2 that keeps its batteries topped off so that it's always ready for researchers to run new experiments or demos for unexpected visitors.

Without opening up a terminal, users can now give the PR2 a variety of instructions such as "Go plug in," or "Go tell everyone it's soccer time." While the latter command is used but once a week around here, the robot is more often in need of a recharge. When hacking on the robot, a simple click on the web interface sends the robot plugging into a wall outlet without interruption. The navigation stack guides the PR2 to the outlet, and the plugging-in code handles the rest. All of this was put to a 24-hour test: using nothing more than the web interface, the PR2 had to execute battery-draining tasks and then return to a wall outlet to recharge for its next goal.

This new tool combines the PR2's plugging and navigation capabilities into one easy-to-use interface that keeps the robot working for us around the clock.  Now, the robot only sleeps when we do...so, never.