Southwest Research Institute is providing video editing services to create two separate video montages celebrating the anniversary of two respective ROS-based open source projects. Please visit the video submission page to upload your video for one of the following montages:
- ROS-Industrial (i.e. factory or manufacturing applications of ROS)
- MoveIt! (i.e. motion planning examples regardless of application/market)
Deadline: 28 March, 2017
Some guidelines for all video submissions:
- No cost for submission
- You will receive a link to upload upon submission of the form below
- Please name your files like this: John_Doe_Company_Name_1.mp4, John_Doe_Company_Name_2.mp4, etc.
- Any number of clips can be uploaded per person/organization
- Videos must be full HD quality or better to be used
- Portable device video must have adequate lighting and stabilization
- We prefer raw video that is not covered with text. borders, etc.
- We request that something interesting happens in 5 seconds or less, otherwise we reserve the right to accelerate the frame rate
- We interpret this submission as your consent to use your clip for this singular purpose. We will contact you if other use cases are desired.
- Don't forget to provide attribution/credit for all parties/collaborators involved in creating your video
- Use abbreviations for attributions/credits when possible to avoid line wrap
- If we are blessed to receive more submissions than we can fit in a short 2-3 min video, we will use the following criteria to select from among the available clips:
- Video quality (stable, in-focus, well-lit)
- Hardware diversity (robot/sensor brand variation among the ensemble of clips)
- Professionalism (less duct tape, higher TRL)
One of the purposes of the ROS-Industrial Consortium is to generate and maintain the technical road map for ROS-Industrial. This effort started in earnest in 2014 using a process that roughly follows the Sandia National Lab Fundamentals of Roadmapping technique. In summary, the steps include:
- Define the scope and participants
- Create a common vision for the product/technology
- Identify stakeholder requirements
- Define technology areas
- Identify alternatives and gaps
- Recommend path(s) forward
- Evaluate roadmap
- Develop implementation plans
The participants in the roadmapping were members of the ROS-Industrial Consortium who are typically involved in manufacturing on a daily basis. The Vision for ROS-Industrial (step 2) is to provide an open and flexible framework for manufacturing automation development that:
- Supports advanced robotics capabilities for manufacturing
- Standardizes interfaces for cross-platform compatibility
- Modularizes and scales components to larger systems
- Enables a collaborative development environment
- Develops the workforce through training curriculum and hands-on classes
- Transfers technology and reduces implementation costs via open source license
- Advances manufacturing productivity
- Improves worker well being
To identify stakeholder requirements for the technology (step 3), we began by collecting example high-priority present and future robotic automation use cases that needed advanced software to enable them. From there we worked backwards, reverse engineering each application to enumerate the technical building blocks that would be needed to assemble a solution (refer to the Mobile Material Handling example below).
We then looked for commonality among those building blocks as a means to define technology areas (step 4) and to prioritize them (below).
The resultant roadmap document identifies alternatives and gaps for each technology area and makes recommendations (steps 5-6). To visualize the roadmap, we presented the data as a traditional timeline (refer to picture below). And while we've made progress in most of the anticipated areas, it is not possible to guarantee specific progress without a similarly guaranteed budget.
In 2016, after receiving additional input from our international collaborators and new members, we sought to refresh this roadmap, and generated the attached infographic to blend the technology areas with the arrow of time in a single graphic (below). Technical thrusts are arranged vertically in order of priority (foundational capabilities starting at the bottom, and ascending toward higher-complexity and/or dependent goals near the top). We also added the orthogonal axis with software quality and reliability characteristics to indicate cross-cutting goals for all capabilities. In early 2017, this vision for ROS-I infographic was ratified by a vote of our Consortium Advisory Committee.
Meeting to be held April 7 in Chicago
- Keynote speaker Matthew Robinson, Caterpillar
- Brett Hemes, 3M
- Trent Weiss, The Boeing Company
- Dr. Steve Turek, Manufacturing USA
- Tully Foote, OSRF
- Min Ling Chan, ARTC
- Mirko Bordignon, Fraunhofer IPA
- Paul Hvass, SwRI
Click the image below to read the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas Annual Newsletter.
If your organization is not yet a Consortium member, you are missing out on the industrial robotics revolution! Join now.
The ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas hosted a ROS-Industrial Developers Training Class February 13-15, 2017, at SwRI located in San Antonio, Texas. A diverse set of organizations including Air Force Research Lab, The Boeing Company, Caterpillar, National Research Council Canada, SwRI, The University of Texas at Austin, and Yaskawa America Inc. Motoman Robotics Division were represented by 17 attendees. The three-day class was geared toward individuals with a C++ programming background who sought to learn to compose their own ROS nodes.
- Day 1 focused on introductory ROS skills.
- Day 2, the class examined motion planning using MoveIt! as well as using the Descartes path planner.
- Day 3 included an introduction to perception and culminated with lab programming exercises (with a choice of): Pick-and-Place Application, Descartes Application.
Many thanks to Jeremy Zoss and Levi Armstrong who led the training class. Additional thanks to Austin Deric, Jonathan Meyer, and Geoffrey Chiou who updated the training curriculum to ROS Kinetic. The training curriculum is open-source and available here.
For more details about this class, see the event page.
If you are interested in attending the next class, keep an eye on this event page.
From time to time the ROS-Industrial Consortia hold focused meetings based on member interests and requests. We recently held such a meeting on 1/31/17 to discuss testing, continuous integration, and deployment. The meeting brought experts from the ROS community to present on tools and best practices for developing and deploying production systems that are built on ROS. Specific presentations included:
- Tully Foote (OSRF) - Continuous integration and Test on the ROS Build Farm
- Isaac Saito (TORK) - ROS-Industrial CI
- Phillip Reed (SwRI) - Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment
- Jeremy Adams (Intelligrated) - Lightning Talk - Using Mocks and Fakes in ROS
- Florian Weißhardt (Fraunhofer IPA) - Lightning Talk - Automated Test Framework – Testing Applications in ROS
The purpose of the meeting was to inform ROS users about existing options and encourage further discussions within the ROS community on topics related to testing, CI, and deployment. These discussions will continue on ROS Discourse.
Submitted by: Wibke Borngesser, M.A., Technische Universität München
Thanks to our presenters, Dr. Conghui Liang (who also hosted), Georg Heppner, Dr. Suraj Nair, and Louise Poubel for an inspiring Global ROS-I Community Web Meeting on 10 January 2017! For details, scroll to abstracts and links below the video.
Host: Dr. Conghui Liang (Research Fellow), Robotics Research Center, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (representing ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific)
- Dr. Conghui Liang (NTU): An Introduction of RADOE (A*STAR Industrial Robotics Project) and ROS related projects in NTU (video link)
- RADOE (Robot Application Development and Operating Environment) is developed based on ROS and ROS-Industrial. It is an incorporation of high-level robotic software and useful tools that have been developed in the A*STAR industrial robotics research program for diversified robotics application developments in the manufacturing sector. In this talk, an overview of the RADOE motivation, architecture design, function modules, and several application demos will be presented.
- Georg Heppner (FZI): ReApp Project – MDE for ROS & Generic IO for FANUC Robots (video link)
- Reusable Software Apps for Robotic Applications (ReApp) based on ROS-Industrial is nearing its completion. This presentation will give an introduction into its core ideas and tools for model-driven engineering of ROS packages with semantic support. Additionally, the implementation of the Generic I/O communication package which was used for a FANUC industrial robot in one of ReApps pilot demonstrators will be covered.
- Dr. Suraj Nair (TUM CREATE): Robotics at TUM CREATE, Singapore: Insight into ROS based Projects (video link)
- TUMCREATE, Singapore is a research outpost of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Germany. Although its main focus is on future mobility applied to public transportation, the robotics activities at TUMCREATE have been expanding rapidly. This presentation will focus on the various robotics activities at TUMCREATE with special emphasis on the Aviation Challenge 2 project. For each of the activities, the connection to ROS will also be presented.
- Louise Poubel (OSRF): Gazebo UX Test Drive (video link)
- Gazebo is one of the most used simulators in the ROS community. It has been under heavy development for the past few years and its most recent version, Gazebo 7, comes with several new tools and features for new and experienced users alike. Updates include not only improved GUI tools and documentation for new users, but also tools that streamline the workflow for experienced users. In this presentation, many of these new features will be demonstrated from within Gazebo.
Note: Part 1 of the RIC-Europe Event Recap covered the ROS-Industrial training and was posted last week and can be found below.
This year’s ROS-Industrial Conference was upgraded, and held over two days with 21 talks, more than doubling last year's ten talks. Brian Gerkey from the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and formerly of Willow Garage, where ROS was born, gave the first keynote which talked about the origins and recent and upcoming developments of ROS. He gave also an overview about the development and current status of the community and presented a variety of industrial use cases using open source software. Prof. Michael Beetz, an authority in the field of cognitive robotics, delivered the second keynote. His presentation dealt with the very important topic of digital infrastructure to empower service robots with a shared and open knowledge base, as market and technology developments foresee different robots in different environments performing different tasks. The presented platform openEase is possibly the most advanced open-source platform for a web-based knowledge service allowing for collection, storage and inspection of activity data for robot and human tasks.
Next up, companies ZenRobotics, PAL Robotics and next47 (a Siemens company), gave an overview about how ROS powers their business, or, in the case of next47, is seen as a common trait for up-and-coming robotics startups. After that, the participants got an overview of the most interesting technical developments going on in ROS and ROS-Industrial. Some of the works were presented recently at ROSCon and IROS in South Korea less than a month before, and we were glad to update our audience on such recent content. Part of the technical talks were:
- A presentation of the service robot Care-O-bot from Fraunhofer IPA, held by Dr. Ulrich Reiser
- A case-study on the ROS navigation stack and about deterministic timing for ROS, presented by Ingo Lütkebohle from BOSCH Corporate Research
- Matthias Gruhler from Fraunhofer IPA presented a solution to improve the navigation of industrial service robot fleets using cloud computing
- A status update about ROS 2.0 and about OPC UA was given by Matthias Keinert from University of Stuttgart The first conference day came to an end with insights into Team Delft’s technologies enabling their win of the Amazon Picking Challenge. Last but not least, Martin Hägele, head of department robot and assistive systems at Fraunhofer IPA, gave a detailed overview about ongoing developments in the worldwide robotics market. His talk covered both industrial and service robots and presented data which is collected annually by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and published in the “World Robotics Report.”
Prof. Martijn Wisse from TU Delft opened the second conference day and described a new funding strategy for ROS-Industrial focused Technical Projects set to start in 2017. Further technical talks complemented the morning session with the following content:
- Bernard Dieber from Johanneum Research talked about application-level security for ROS-based applications
- Real-Time Extension to ROS was the topic of the presentation from Jan Carstensen, working at Leibniz Universität Hannover
- A framework for quality assessment of ROS applications was presented by André Santos from INES TEC
For the ROS-Industrial consortia it is important to offer not only technical knowledge during the events but also to transfer knowledge about non-technical but highly relevant topics such as “best practices” related to open-source software and ROS. One example is the question of how to deal with safety regulations when using ROS. Theo Jacobs from Fraunhofer IPA presented some “do’s and don’ts’” with respect to safe software and to the development and application of ROS components. He gave some information about the ISO standardization committees and their procedures for establishing standards. Carsten Emde from the Open Source Automation Development Lab gave insights into open source in industrial automation, which is in fact already a reality in this business domain. He spoke about Linux and some well-known and also less well-known hurdles for its use in automation and how they are or will soon be taken, such as SIL2 certification for base components of a Linux RTOS, currently undergoing at OSADL.
Dr. Catharina Maracke from the Software Compliance Academy held the last non-technical talk about “Unterstanding License Compatibility and Compliance Risks and Processes in Free Open Source Software”. She informed, among others, about different types of licenses, their advantages and constraints and the OpenChain project that aims to address free and open source software-related friction points in the software supply chain. It was the second talk Dr. Maracke gave for the ROS-Industrial consortia, marking a continued collaboration given the interest expressed by our community in these topics. Both Fraunhofer IPA and the RIC-EU consortium are specifically concerned to keep the attention high on these matters as they often represent the reasons why open source software has still some difficulties to be widely adopted within the more conservative industrial automation environment.
Before the conference wrapped up, the following topics were presented in a last technical track:
- Sebastian Brunner from German Aerospace Center (DLR) spoke about RAFCON, a graphical tool for task programming
- Ontology-driven tools for robot application development were the aim of the ReApp project that was presented by Dr. Björn Kahl from Fraunhofer IPA
- Pablo Quiles Velilla ended the track with his presentation about drag&bot, an innovative and easy way for industrial robot programming
All in all, the ROS-Industrial training and conference offered extensive technical and non-technical knowledge, a variety of best practices and was also a good opportunity to get in contact with the ROS and ROS-Industrial communities and to widen the network. Thanks again to the colleagues from FH Aachen, to all speakers and of course to all participants of the event(s)!
For your reference, the detailed agenda of the whole event as well as all slides from the speakers can be found here. A picture gallery from the training as well as from the conference is available here. Please have in mind: The follow-up event in 2017 will be the ROS-Industrial Summit at RoboBusiness Europe 2017 on April 20-21 in Delft, the Netherlands. The next ROS-Industrial conference is planned for the first half of December 2017.
Note: Part 2 of the RIC-Europe Event Recap will cover topics and presentations presented at the conference. This article will be posted next week.
We had a full house at this year’s event combining ROS-Industrial training, managed by our colleagues from FH Aachen with guest lectures from representatives of PPM AS and IT+Robotics srl, and the ROS-Industrial Conference. From November 2 to November 4, Fraunhofer IPA, the managing organization of the ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe, hosted the event in Stuttgart with in total about 70 participants during the three days. The training and conference were combined and showcased updated formats. For participants, it was easier to attend both activities to get the most out of their visit.
For the training session, we collaborated with our new Consortium member FH Aachen. Thanks to Josef Schleupen who coordinated with his colleagues Harshavardhan Deshpande, Heiko Engemann, Jannik Hoppe and Patrick Wiesen, this event was very successful, especially in providing hands-on sessions for all participants. We covered the main aspects of ROS in one day by giving an introduction into ROS and ROS-Industrial, an overview about ROS-powered robotics and the community. During the first day, FH Aachen tutors presented and tutored the participants in hands-on sessions, performed in pairs, on the usual topics of perception (sensor technologies, image processing and ROS visualization), localization (transformation, mapping & navigation) and manipulation (unified robot description, path-planning with MoveIt!, Gazebo Simulator). During the morning of the second day, some ROS-I specific packages were presented by PPMS AS and IT+Robotics srl. During the training, attendees had the chance to get a condensed overview of what ROS can do for them, to see three different robot arms in action, and use an ad-hoc developed mobile platform.
Some impressions from the ROS-Industrial training:
Submitted by: Arne Rönnau, FZI
The FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik (FZI Research Center for Information Technology), an independent research institute associated with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany, has a long standing history of working with various robotic frameworks for a number of robot platforms. From special kinematics, like a six-legged walking robot or two-armed service robot with body joints on a mobile platform, to service and industrial robots like the UR 10 and the Fanuc M710. Since 2000, FZI has developed its own robotic framework MCA (Modular Controller Architecture) which later became MCA2 and which is still used on many robot systems today also outside of FZI. With the increasing popularity and maturity of ROS, however, the focus has shifted towards using and expanding ROS rather than further improving the in-house framework (which is still used for many low-level tasks).
With the release of ROS Diamondback, FZI started to use ROS on the robotic Platforms KAIRO III, a snake-like inspection robot, and LAURON IV, a six legged walking robot in conjunction with MCA2. The FZI UAV fleet consisting of Parrot AR-Drones and the Asctec UAVs Pelican and Falcon 8 used ROS Fuerte as the main framework from the start. It was also commonly used to analyze data of the autonomous car CoCar, for which the available visualization tools proved to be very valuable.
The development efforts of ROS components by FZI also increased together with its extended usage. During the preparation of LAURON V for the first SpaceBot Cup by the German Aerospace Center DLR in 2013, initial fixes were provided for libraries such as the SMACH viewer and the robot_web_tools, as they were used extensively to enable autonomous exploration by the walking robot of a Mars-like environment. In October 2014 a larger contribution, the schunk_svh_driver package, was released on behalf of Schunk. It is providing hardware support for one of the most mechanically advanced robotic hands today. In 2016 a driver for the LWA4P with CanOpen support followed. Today the FZI also offers workshops teaching ROS to companies when developers need a concise introduction or just specific help with their projects.
ROS has also become a major research topic in public funded projects. The Human Brain Project (HBP), which FZI takes part in, relies heavily on gazebo as a simulation environment, for which tools like a blender-based intuitive robot designer are being developed. The project ReApp (Reusable robotic Applications for flexible robots), puts ROS-Industrial at its core, and is in fact a team effort with other ROS-focused institutions like Fraunhofer IPA. By adding semantically-enriched models to ROS packages, ReApp further enhances the already reuse-friendly structure of ROS by enabling easier search and automatic replacement of packages. During preparations for Automatica 2016, FZI used the ROS Industrial stack for a Fanuc M710 and implemented the ROS-Industrial-IO REP for Fanuc robots as first contribution to the ROS-Industrial community, which is currently being finalized.
Since August 2016 FZI is part of the ROS-Industrial Consortium Europe, through which it plans to further increase its activities around ROS and ROS-Industrial.
This is the continuation of a multiple-post series detailing the ROS-Industrial software development process. The first post in the series described the process of contributing code to the project (steps 1-3 in the figure above). This post is focused on the steps involved in reviewing code up to the point where is can be submitted for release as a ROS package. Note that the starred numbers in the outline correspond to steps in the software development process illustrated above.
- When a Pull Request (PR) is issued there is the Travis Continuous Integrations (CI) step (step 4) which happens automatically in the background. The Travis CI performs several operations and if any of the steps below fail, then the PR is marked accordingly for the maintainer. Travis:
- Installs a barebones ROS distribution on a fresh Ubuntu virtual machine.
- Creates a catkin workspace and puts the repository in it.
- Uses wstool to check out any from-source dependencies (i.e. other repositories).
- Resolves package dependencies using rosdep (i.e. install packages using apt-get).
- Compiles the catkin workspace
- Runs all available unit tests
- If the PR passes Travis CI and one of the maintainers is satisfied with the changes they post a +1 as a comment on the PR (step 5). The +1 signifies that the PR is ready to be merged all PR require at least one +1 and pass Travis CI before it can be merged.
- The next step (step 6) is for the PR to be merged into the main branch. This is done through the GitHub web interface by selecting the “Merge pull request” button. After the PR is merged, all status badges are updated automatically.
- Periodically the maintainer will release the package (step 7), which then gets sent to the ROS build farm for Debian creation (more on this next time).
Submitted by: Dr. Andrew Zelenak and Dr. Mitch Pryor, UT Austin Nuclear and Applied Robotics Group (NRG)
Cross posted from: http://robotics.me.utexas.edu/nuclear-robotics-group-goes-public
We are happy to announce a code release! The Nuclear Robotics Group at UT-Austin was an early adopter of ROS software, but until recently, most of our software was private. However, our main sponsor (Los Alamos National Laboratory) recently gave the green light to open-source our code. With that approval, we are slowly rolling code over to a public repository and will be indexing the packages with ROS as appropriate. This was first announced to the ROS-Industrial community in June 2016. A couple little gems which might already be useful for the public include:
- The netft_utils package for ATI force/torque sensors:
- Set the data collection rate
- Transform force data between TF frames as a robot moves
- Compensate for gravity forces on the end-effector
- A driver for LeapMotion
- The LeapMotion hardware tracks a human’s hands, making for some really cool demos and user interfaces
- A driver for the Griffin Powermate user interface device A contact control GUI
In the future, we’ll be open-sourcing even more, so keep your eyes open! The video below shows a little demo incorporating the above-mentioned packages.
Submitted by: Abhijit Makhal, Idaho State University
For the Google Summer of Code Project (GSoC) 2016, with coordination with Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and ROS-I Consortium, a toolkit Reuleaux, has been developed for the purpose of workspace analysis and base placement for a specified task. The workspace analysis is highly beneficial for any robotic system as it provides information about the reachability of the manipulator. The base placement system uses the workspace analysis tool and provides optimal base position for a specified task providing predefined end-effector positions.
The first project goal was to develop a tool that can define reachability of any manipulator with existing robot definition such as URDF (Unified Robot Description Format). With an URDF of the robot and resolution based on user needs, the tool can provide multiple maps representing the information about the workspace such as a reachability map, capability map and inverse reachability map. Several new ROS messages have been generated for workspace analysis which represents the coordinates of the workspace spheres, poses in the spheres and reachability of that spheres.
The reachability map describes the reachability of a given robot model by discretizing its environment, creating poses in the environment and calculating valid IK solutions for the poses. The poses which are reachable by robot are associated with discretized spheres. The reachability of each sphere in the environment are parameterized by a reachability index. The output is saved as an hdf5 file.
The capability map is an extension of reachability where the outer spheres of the reachability map, is set as cones. So the reachability limit of the robot is well visualized. All the outer spheres are decided for a principal axes and iterates over different values for opening angles for cones.
Inverse Reachability Map
The purpose of the inverse reachability map is to find suitable base positions for a robot with given task poses. The inverse reachability map is a general inverse transformation of all the reachable poses of the reachability map of the robot. The inverse Reachability map is dependent on generated reachability map. With a visualization toolbox for Reuleaux, the workspace can be visualized in RViz. The visualization tool also provides scope of representing the workspace with different structures (spheres, cones, cylinder and box), colors (based on reachability or solid colors) and reachability index (spheres with high/low reachability)
The second goal of the project was to develop a user interface by which the user can provide task poses needed for a specified task and the system will try to find optimal base position/ positions for that task from where the robot can reach all the positions. The system tries to create a combined inverse reachability map of all the task poses and finds optimal base location by one of the following methods.
- Principal Component Analysis (PCA)
- Grasp reachability score
- Ik solution score
At this time, the Reuleaux toolkit is far away from completion. There are various scopes of improvement for the tool in terms of visualization, algorithm and computation. I would like to encourage the Robotics Community to contribute to this project by providing suggestions and improvements. Detailed information and instructions for running the tool can be found at: http://wiki.ros.org/reuleaux
Please let me know if there is any issue in running the codes or if you have any suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to share my gratitude for the ROS-I community members and my mentor Alex K. Goins and Shaun Edwards, who shared their valuable suggestions during the project development and guided me in the right direction. I hope that this project can be very useful for robotics community.
Some useful links for Reuleaux:
- Documentation about map creation can be found at: https://github.com/ros-industrial-consortium/reuleaux/tree/master/map_creator
- Documentation about workspace visualization can be found at: https://github.com/ros-industrial-consortium/reuleaux/tree/master/workspace_visualization
- Documentation about the base placement planner can be found at: https://github.com/ros-industrial-consortium/reuleaux/tree/master/base_placement_plugin
Submitted by: Dave Coleman, CU Boulder
Time: October 27, 2016 starting at 10 AM CDT
Our second MoveIt! community meeting webcast will be on October 27th at 8am Pacific to discuss the latest developments and uses of MoveIt! around the world. Join us online to hear from research groups and industry on their perspectives of motion planning in ROS. Confirmed speakers include:
- Recent Developments in MoveIt! - Dave Coleman
- The Search-Based Planning Library (SBPL) - Dr. Maxim Likhachev and Andrew Dornbush
- Updates from the Flexible Collision Checking Library (FCL) - Dr. Dinesh Manocha
- Delft’s Winning Amazon Picking Challenge Entry - Mukunda Bharatheesha
- MoveIt! @ Fetch Robotics - Michael Ferguson
Final agenda and details on how to join the AnyMeeting webcast will be sent out closer to the event. If you are interested in presenting your work to the community please contact me by October 21st.
As ROS-Industrial approaches its fifth anniversary, we wanted to share some reflections on how the initiative is evolving and on some adjustments in policy to maintain it on a healthy, sustainable growth path.
The first demo showcasing the advantages of ROS on industrial hardware, a pick-and-place application performed on a Motoman SIA10D, was developed in the fall of 2011 by Shaun Edwards. From this early effort we have come a long way both in terms of Consortia and Community building and of further development of the software platform. With the recent addition of the Asia Pacific region we now have more than 40 organizations supporting the ROS-Industrial Consortia worldwide. On the software side, ROS-Industrial is growing in terms of more supported hardware and of more, and more advanced, capabilities that it offers to industrial users.
In parallel to the effort of expanding the Consortia and to keep the "voice of business" in the loop, the software development community is growing under the technical leadership of Shaun Edwards and Gijs van der Hoorn. We have been hosting online developer meetings since last fall: now held monthly, they provide a venue for contributors to become more involved with the rest of the community and eventually join it on a stable basis. In addition to growing the codebase, we are gradually enforcing best practices in the development process to ensure a better overall software quality. These include an improved review process for PRs; unit and system test coverage; continuous integration tests.
While the expansion of the development community brings on-board very welcome contributors, the commitment required to maintain and support a fast expanding software platform is calling for a more structured approach than we had so far. This in order for us to be able to more effectively and more fairly commit development resources, and for our users to get a better understanding of the support level that they can expect.
A more effective and fair allocation of resources means standing behind the code which supports the activities of Consortia members. These are the organizations making the initiative possible, as they provide financial support and public advocacy for the adoption of open-source software in industrial robotics. A better understanding of support level means helping our users to set their expectations to an appropriate level when evaluating the adoption of specific packages. For instance, a manufacturer actively supporting the driver for its equipment, directly or through its regional ROS-Industrial Consortium, makes for a much different situation than having to rely solely on community support.
As a first step towards this direction, we announce the following levels of support for packages in the ros-industrial github organization:
- consortium / vendor: for packages supporting the activities of a Consortium member, which ideally also contributes with in-house technical support (e.g., robot drivers); for core ROS-I packages developed and maintained by the technical leads;
- vendor: for packages directly supported by the vendor's technical staff;
- community: support is community-based, and as such it is best-effort and based upon the work of volunteers.
We are currently rolling out this scheme by gradually assigning "badges" corresponding to the appropriate support level to the various ROS-Industrial packages. We also want to provide soon users with means to "ping the OEM" behind a specific piece of hardware which is currently at community-level support, and we are currently looking for the most effective means to do so.