ROS

Learning ROS online? Is possible thanks to the collaboration of Robotnik and The Construct

If we talk about autonomous mobile robotics, it is essential to talk about ROS. The ROS framework has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in the robotics industry in recent years. The idea was to find a way to help the development of robotic applications, facilitating communication between sensors and algorithms, following the paradigm of "program once, test everywhere".

Another new feature of this 2021 is the new remote warehouse lab in exclusive collaboration between The Construct and Robotnik. A lab that offers the possibility to learn ROS online, with both remote and on-site applications. 

The Construct is the leading online academy for learning ROS development in robotics. This platform has traditionally operated by providing both online and face-to-face training around the world in simulation environments.

For Robotnik it is important that the training that followers receive is with real demonstrations, so it offers the academy free annual licenses so that ROS programming with some of the robots it manufactures - the SUMMIT-XL, for example - can be done not only in a simulated environment, but with testing in a real environment.

All of Robotnik's robots support ROS software, and it has been working on robots for R&D for almost 20 years. These two aspects have led to a close relationship with The Construct since its inception, collaborating in different ways. Throughout this time, they have been able to count on some of Robotnik's most outstanding robots, such as the RB-1BASE or the RB-KAIROS +, for their academic offerings.

New laboratory in collaboration with Robotnik and The Construct

Now they are launching a remote laboratory to complement the experience of their students in simulation with real robots, so that the training, although remote, has a part of real use of a robot.

The warehouse lab aims to teach how to program autonomous collaborative robots to help in warehouses, using both ROS1 and ROS2. Students first practice with a simulation of the environment and then remotely connect to real robots and practice what they have learned on these autonomous robots.

The main robot in the lab is Robotnik's RB-1 BASE, plus a few others that are used as complementary tools. An example of this is the UR3 (from Universal Robots) with a gripper from OnRobot.

This robotic arm is necessary to have a real laboratory to help in warehouses, since the two basic tasks of these robots are to carry cargo from one place to another (task of the RB-1 BASE) and to be able to pick up objects and put them down where they belong (task of the manipulator robot).

Warehouse Robot lab

Who is this remote laboratory aimed at?

The remote lab is only available to Enterprise customers. These are enterprise customers who want to set up their robotics sections or who want to keep their team up to date with the latest developments in robotics with ROS.

They are also often project researchers.

This means that is a high quality laboratory, whose training is aimed at people with a certain level of prior knowledge and experience in the robotics sector. Our special workshops (online and on-site) are also held in this laboratory.

rb-1 base

But what is ROS?

ROS stands for Robot Operating System.

It is not exactly an operating system, but a set of open source software frameworks that allow hardware to be abstracted.

Before ROS existed, every time a user changed robots or acquired a different one, he or she had to learn to use new software. Today with ROS, it is possible to share programs, code and commonly used functions between different robots. It also facilitates integration between systems, which is more expensive if you change paradigms. 

At the moment, ROS is available for Linux Ubuntu and Debian but is still in the experimental phase for Windows or macOS.

Robotnik is dedicated from the beginning to product development and provision of engineering and R&D services in service robotics. That is why it started working with ROS already from the first distribution released in 2010 (Box Turtle) knowing that it is and will be the standard in robotics for years to come.

rb-1 base

In the last few years, ROS has established itself as the most widespread robotics framework worldwide. Every day more and more companies and institutions are opting to use ROS due to the facilities it offers, highlighting the possibility of using open source packages already created that allow the use of different components without the need to invest a large amount of time in the process.

However, the usefulness of ROS goes beyond the reuse of software created by the community. Being a middleware conceived from the beginning for use in robotics, it provides a set of tools that greatly facilitates the creation of a robust and coherent software architecture.

The software functionalities are distributed in the form of modular packages that can be added or removed without affecting the operation of the rest of the components of a robot. ROS provides different communication protocols between these packages, as well as tools to visualize and modify the robot's behavior in a simple and intuitive way.

Another great advantage of using an open source framework with a large community behind it is that its users already have the necessary knowledge to use any type of robot whose architecture is based on the same system. In addition, the large number of users translates into the creation of a large number of open source components that are in a process of continuous improvement. Although the initial adoption of ROS was mainly in research centers, the maturity of the product has led to tremendous growth in the service and industrial robotics segments in recent years.

Due to the modular nature of ROS, its packages are under constant development to add enhancements, correct weaknesses, and adapt its operation to the current state of the art. To prevent its users from having to manually update each package, exposing them to problems and incompatibilities, ROS has a versioning system that provides an up-to-date and functional set of packages. Each version is designed for use on a different Ubuntu distribution and has up to 5 years of support from its release. The versions with active support at the moment are Melodic and Noetic, with Melodic being the most widespread distribution at the moment.

The large adoption of ROS in recent years for use in robots of all types, together with the advancement of technology since its release in 2007, has led to the emergence of new needs that were not taken into account during the initial design of the system. To avoid making drastic changes that would break compatibility with already established systems, it was decided to create a new system called ROS 2, the first official version of which was released at the end of 2017.

ROS 2 features a new decentralized architecture intended for use on systems with diverse features, and with native support for Ubuntu, OS X and Windows. Its advantages include greater control over the execution of each component, the possibility of integrating real-time systems, or its multi-robot approach that offers the possibility of adjusting the communication system for use in environments where communications are not ideal. 

robot móvil

ROS 2 already has several years of adoption and constant improvements behind it, which has led to the release of LTS (long-term support) versions designed for stable use in all types of robotic systems. This has caused the industry to begin a migration process from ROS to ROS 2 that will extend over the next few years, and will significantly drive the evolution of the new system.

The store with ROS robots and component

The proof of this firm commitment by Robotnik is the creation of ROS Components, a portal for the sale of robotics products with ROS support.

Most of the robots and components on the market are supported in ROS, but sometimes it is not easy to find out which ones are, which version they support or how to purchase them. One of the main objectives of this store is to link the products with their drivers and/or software for ROS, detailing how to install and configure them and where to find tutorials or useful information, among other aspects. In the end, it's all about making the user experience as easy as possible.

ROS Components

In addition to supporting the ROS community, whose core is maintained by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) which is a non-profit organization in charge of developing new versions, as well as maintaining the necessary infrastructure for servers, etc., ROS Components aims to promote the use of ROS as well as its maintenance and growth.

Would you like a ROS video tutorial? A ROS demo? You can leave your opinion below in comments.

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ROS Control: the key to consolidate ROS in the robotics industry

ROS has been one of the greatest advances of the robotics industry in the past years. Its development began as a way to help the development of robot applications, easing the communication between sensors and algorithms, following the paradigm of “program once, test everywhere”. 

This has been the pattern of the last years, and ROS has performed extremely good in that way. 

For example, you could code an algorithm to take an image as its input, without caring about which model, resolution or connection type, as long as it was supported by ROS and adopted its API.

But this focusing on the high-level layer of application development led to an unthinkable oblivion: How was the access to actuators managed? How were the references of the actuators calculated? 

As in the case of high level applications, where the end user shouldn’t care about the source and destination of the data used and produced by him, in the case of robot control the user shouldn’t care about which type of actuators are used by a robot. But today, this is not the situation anymore thanks to ROS Control.

Why ROS Control?

ROS Control is the API that has been developed by the ROS community to allow simple access to different actuators. Using this standard API, the controller code is separated from the actuator code. For example, one could write a new controller implementing a fancy control strategy and test it on different hardware without changing a single line of code. Or one could test different control algorithm with same hardware to find the most suitable for its needs.

ROS Control has different features that make it really appealing: 

  • Real time capabilities, that allows to run control loops at hundreds of hertz.
  • A simple manager interface, that gives access to the actuators and handles resource conflicts.
  • A safety interface, that knows the hardware limitation of the joints and ensures that the commands sent to the actuators are between their limits.
  • A set off-the-shelf controllers that are ready to be used.

Have you ever thought about the mapping between joint and actuator space? ROS Control already did it. 

Normally this mapping is one-to-one, i.e. one actuator controls one joint, and their movement is related by a gearbox, so you don’t need to do messy calculations. However, in case of more complex scenarios, e.g. when a differential transmission is used, ROS Control gives us an elegant solution through its transmission interface to cope with this problem. 

This solution is used by the differential (RB-1 Base and RB-2 Base) and skid-steering (Summit-XL) robots from Robotnik, robotics company. These platforms are very similar, but they have different number of wheels: two for a differential configuration and four in the case of skid-steering. Thanks to the transmissions interface in ROS Control, they share the same control algorithm with no additional software effort.

ROS Control

One more step

What about mixing different robot components into one? This is a trend nowadays, where robot components are autonomous and usable on their own but can also be assembled into a single functional system. In those cases, ROS provides high level coordination between the components, but with ROS Control this coordination is also achieved at the low level, extending the control possibilities to far and beyond.

For example, with a more coupled control between a robotic arm and the tool attached to it. Or, as is the case of RB-Kairos, smooth and coordinated movements between the robotic arm and the mobile base are easy to program, leading to high complex operations and maneuvers that include logistic operations, picking items from narrow spaces and interactions with humans in a safe and confident manner.

RB-KAIROS+

Finally, the separation between controllers and actuators allows an interesting option: simulation. Gazebo, the standard robot simulator used by ROS, implements simulated ROS Control actuators, and one can write and test a controller even before it has the real robot available. This feature of ROS Control is used at Robotnik to test new kinematic configurations for its most edgy robots, allowing for quick prototype delivery. 

This is the case of RB-Vulcano, a platform with 4 steerable wheels in a swerve-configuration thanks to them is able to move in an omnidirectional way. 

However, they have to be coordinated in different modes, such as parking or navigation, to effectively follow the reference of movement that is sent to the robot. Switching between modes must be a compromise between the smoothness of the movement and the precision required for each operation. Thanks to ROS Control, Robotnik was able to replicate the full platform in a simulated environment to find the best strategies for motor control.

mobile manipulator

ROS Control is one of the key parts for the domination of the robotic world by ROS. As a world leading company in the ROS community, Robotnik makes an extensive use of ROS Control to give its customers the best products available on the market.

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Robotnik, premium sponsor of 3rd ROS Developers Day

Robotnik is going to sponsor the 3rd ROS Developers Day (*formerly named “ROS Developers Conference“), which is a hands-on online event for robot operating system developers. The event aims to connect ROS developers around the world without geographical restrictions and to share and learn the latest ROS applications through real-time practice.

At this conference, the world’s top ROS developers will bring their latest results through a webcast. They will demonstrate their ROS projects in real-time, and the public will practice at the same time.

It's the case of our colleague Alejandro Arnal, software developer from Robotnik. He will make a speech about 'Working with mobile manipulators'. Mobile manipulators are robots composed of a mobile base and a robotic arm. By combining these two, robots are able to interact in human environments, being collaborative robots. Our colleague will teach the audience how to program a mobile manipulator and they will practice using Robotnik’s mobile manipulator RB-KAIROS.


Have you ever wondered what’s the best robotics company specializing in ROS?

If so, The Robot Report gives you the answer, or at least it brings you closer to it, in his article Top 10 ROS-based robotics companies in 2019, which introduces the 10 robotics companies that are right now considered international benchmarks in the sector. And, as it couldn’t be otherwise, Robotnik is on that list.

The Robot Report has developed its winning list following a series of own criteria among which are the following : you can buy the robot directly to manufacturers without going through intermediaries, the robot runs on ROS from minute one and the moment you acquire it you can program it at low level layering. The Robot Report concludes that Robotnik belongs to the top 10 ROS companies, because it meets all the above criteria and has become a collaborative world leader in mobile robotics.

Robotnik bet ROS dates back to the origins of software programming itself. Our R & D products meet the objectives of any developer : open source, customization options, modularity and ad hoc designs. This extends to all products of a large portfolio of both robots and mobile manipulators. In Robotnik not put limit to R & D and so we are in love with ROS.

The ROS philosophy led to Robotnik to create an online shop: ROS Components, which offers you the opportunity to purchase the components with support for ROS in the simplest way. While we contribute to the growth of the robotics community, providing some of the benefits of our online e-commerce to the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), the nonprofit organization responsible for the development of new versions and maintenance of the necessary infrastructure for servers, among other things.

At ROS Components you can find : from lasers to robotic hands and grippers, and also force sensors, robotic arms as well as mobile platforms and mobile manipulators. All of it supported by ROS, the reference software in robotics nowadays.


Learn ROS with a SUMMIT-XL from Robotnik

The Construct is the company world leader in teaching ROS online. Every Tuesday it spreads a free ROS Live Class on its Youtube channel, where attendants can learn and practice a ROS subject.

The Construct has been teaching courses on ROS programming of our SUMMIT-XL in a simulated environment, but recently we understood that these master class will be more useful for the followers with a real demo with SUMMIT-XL mobile robot. Through it, The Construct have been able to do tests in real environment.

Since October 2017, The Construct teaches an online course about all you need to operate and use the SUMMIT-XL robot platform in the real world. You will learn it through hands on experience with a simulated version of the real robot which will have the exact same interface as the real one, thanks to ROS infrastructure..

SUMMIT-XL stands out for its high mobility and modularity. It has skid-steering kinematics based on 4 high power motorwheels. Furthermore, it can mount several sensors according to the final application (cameras, lasers, etc.). Therefore, SUMMIT-XL is a complete and strong option inside the autonomous mobile robotics market.

Now, The Construct shows how to control any real robot from the ROS Development Studio Cloud Robotics Platform with the example of the Robotnik SUMMIT-XL:

And at this video shows how easy is to setup and control a robot from ROSDS cloud robotics platform:


SUMMIT-XL connected to ROS Development Studio (TheConstructSim)

The Construct  has just launched a video with the mapping program is running in the ROSDS, the environment is shown in rviz, with the data comming from the real SUMMIT-XL:

Programming the SUMMIT-XL from Robotnik in ROSDS is very easy, it allows to forget setting nor configuring your computer, just by pressing a button, the code does not run in simulation but in the real robot.


The Robotnik’s CEO at ROS Developers Podcast

Ricardo Tellez, the founder of The Constuct, the leader online academy to learn development with ROS for robots, in his podcast "ROS Developers Podcast" has interviewed Roberto Guzman, CEO of Robotnik.

In the podcast, Roberto Guzman told about how to speed up a robot building by using certified ROS components and how easy he feels that is to transfer results from simulation to real robot.

In this podcast also you can find the opinion from the Robotnik's CEO about ROSCON and IROS events and ROS-Industrial, among others.

You can listen it here.


ROS 10 Year Montage

A montage showing the variety of robots in the ROS community.


ROS CONTROL, an API to control them all

ROS has been one of the greatest advances of the robotics industry in the past years. Its development began as a way to help the development of robot applications, easing the communication between sensors and algorithms, following the paradigm of “program once, test everywhere”.

This has been the pattern of the last years, and ROS has performed extremely good in that way. For example, you could code an algorithm to take an image as its input, without caring about which model, resolution or connection type, as long as it was supported by ROS and adopted its API.

But this focusing on the high level layer of application development led to an unthinkable oblivion: How was the access to actuators managed? How were the references of the actuators calculated? As in the case of high level applications, where the end user shouldn’t care about the source and destination of the data used and produced by him, in the case of robot control the user shouldn’t care about which type of actuators are used by a robot.

But today, this is not the situation anymore. ROS Control is the API that has been developed by the ROS community to allow simple access to different actuators. Using this standard API, the controller code is separated from the actuator code. For example, one could write a new controller implementing a fancy control strategy, and test it on different hardware without changing a single line of code. Or one could test different control algorithm with same hardware to find the most suitable for its needs.

ROS Control has different features that make it really appealing: real time capabilities, that allows to run control loops at hundreds of hertz; a simple manager interface, that gives access to the actuators and handles resource conflicts; a safety interface, that knows the hardware limitation of the joints and ensures that the commands sent to the actuators are between their limits; and a set off-the-shelf controllers that are ready to be used.

Have you ever thought about the mapping between joint and actuator space? ROS Control already did it. Normally this mapping is one-to-one, i.e. one actuator controls one joint, and their movement is related by a gearbox, so you don’t need to do messy calculations. However, in case of more complex scenarios, e.g. when a differential transmission is used, ROS Control gives us an elegant solution through its transmission interface to cope with this problem.

What about mixing different robot components into one? This is a trend nowadays, where robot components are autonomous and usable on their own, but can also be assembled into a single functional system. In those cases, ROS provides high level coordination between the components, but with ROS Control this coordination is also achieved at the low level, extending the control possibilities to far and beyond, for example, with a more coupled control between a robotic arm and the tool attached to it.

Finally, the separation between controllers and actuators allows an interesting option: simulation. Gazebo, the standard robot simulator used by ROS, implements simulated ROS Control actuators, and one can write and test a controller even before it has the real robot available. This feature of ROS Control is used at Robotnik to test new kinematic configurations for its most edgy robots, allowing for quick prototype delivery.

ROS Control is one of the key parts for the domination of the robotic world by ROS. As a world leading company in the ROS community, Robotnik makes an extensive use of ROS Control to give its customers the best products available on the market.


ROS Components, because robotics means ROS

ROS Components is a division of Robotnik Automation Group, leading company in the European service robotics market.

The rise and potential of all the robots and devices using ROS has led us to create this new and exciting project, where we intend to offer a huge range of products in a simple and useful way for the customer. The client will be able to find all the technical information and support of any product at the same place: ROS Components.

buy-one-contribute-osrf

In recent years, ROS has become the standard in Service and Research Robotics, and it’s making great advances in the Industry sector.

Most of the robots and components in the market support ROS, though sometimes finding which are really supported, what ROS version they make use, and how to get them is a difficult task. One of our main purposes is to make it easier and simpler for the customer, linking the products with their ROS controllers, explaining how to install and configure them and showing where to find useful information about them. All the products in the site are supported by ROS, either available directly in the ROS distribution or through their source code.

From ROS-Components we strongly believe that ROS is and will be the standard in Robotics for many more years. Therefore we want to encourage roboticists to use it (whether you are not already doing so) as well as manufacturers to give support to From ROS Components we try to encourage the use of ROS as well as its maintenance and growth. Therefore we are going to donate part of the benefits of every sale to the OSRF. So, every time you buy in ROS Components, you’ll be contributing to the ROS maintenance and development. Apart from this, you also can directly contribute with the OSRF through the following link.

On the other hand, we want to encourage the ROS community to participate in the development, improvement and documentation of ROS packages (ros.wiki.org) as well as in helping with ROS related problems (answers.ros.org).

The ROS community has a new meeting point in ROS Components!

WELCOME to

ROS Components!

osrf_logoRos logo