2012-07-04

willowgarage's personal robotics platform

6.18: news.adds/openware/
willowgarage's personal robotics platform:
open source robotics platform
. Willow Garage's mission is to
help advance the state-of-the-art in
autonomous robotics technologies.
. great advances in robotics will come from
the open source community.
Willow Garage is working on all levels of software
from the ground-level ROS (Robot Operating System)
to their collection of ROS-enabled software packages.
. they're also helping application engineers
understand camera, video, and 3D point cloud data
with the OpenCV
and Point Cloud Library (PCL) perception libraries.

 PR2 (Personal Robotics PRogramming):
The PR2 is an open platform standard
for Personal Robotics PRogramming .
The common platform also lets you
easily share your research results
in a way that is reproducible.
With a common platform and open principles
the PR2 Community can stop reinventing the wheel
and focus on new capabilities .
By developing on a PR2,
you can easily share code with other researchers,
and run their code unmodified in your own lab .
More powerful than a video or publication,
others can easily reproduce your results
enabling true scientific validation
in the robotics community.
ROS (Robot Operating System)
. ROS provides libraries and tools
to help software developers create robot applications.
It provides hardware abstraction,
device drivers, libraries, visualizers,
message-passing, package management, and more.
. ROS is based on Switchyard,
written by Morgan Quigley at Stanford,
and has seen numerous contributions
from institutions around the world.
ROS is completely open source (BSD)
and free for others to use, change and commercialize upon.
Willow Garage is strongly committed to
developing open source and reusable software.
. at code.ros.org, you'll find
both research and core libraries
This includes drivers and novel algorithms,
as well as ROS-integration for
many popular open source robotics libraries.
. when I heard about this from NPR
the host was sneering about the "wisdom" of open source:
"( a system where anybody
is allowed to tinker in the brains of the robot?!)
. after personal computing's record
-- considering either security, or reliability --
you can hardly blame the scepticism, right?

. so what makes software safe?
certainly not from being closed-sourced
-- just look at personal computing!
. here's the willowgarage's take on safety:
pr2support.willowgarage.com/wiki/Safety .
keep in mind that this is a researcher's system,
where elite institutions like Stanford, and MIT
are guarding what they hold to be
academia's most valuable contributions to robotics .

. as for contributions by the general public,
we're so early in this robotics game,
that the greatest safety mechanism, by far,
would be the use of simulators
to confine our enthusiasm to virtual worlds !

. the PR2 has a nearly complete simulator;
It is a three-dimensional, rigid-body
model of the PR2 robot
with most of the hardware-ROS interfaces
found on the actual PR2 robot,
implemented using the
simulator_gazebo stack .
. another thing that concerns safety
is the chosen programming language:
while c++ is too complex to be safe,
the ROS also has a Python binding,
rospy:
The rospy client API enables Python programmers
to quickly interface with ROS's
Topics, Services, and Parameters.
Many of the ROS tools are written in rospy
to take advantage of the type introspection capabilities.
Python is ideal for non-critical-path code,
such as configuration and initialization code.
--. parts of python can also be fast,
as it can be extended with C,
and of course, the safe C subset, MISRA C .
. see tutorials .