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Thread: ROS for hobby use

  1. ROS for hobby use

    I'm interested in how much people in the community use ROS (

    It is used widely in academic robotics research, and to a lesser extent in industry. As far as I can tell there isn't much use amongst hobbyists, and I want to know why.

    What are people's experiences/impressions of ROS? Do you use it for your day job? Your own projects?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
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    Re: ROS for hobby use

    It's fairly easy to get a rover style up and running by starting with the turtlebot template. In regards to crawlers though there isn't much out there developed, (which is what most of us are currently using). Also if you've been reading it is usually setup as a parent/child relationship. Thus you have one Linux computer as control and another on-boad controlling the platform. This is a rather large investment that sometimes people shy away from, though with BBB and Raspi's able to run "limited" ROS it should be getting easier for the general hobbyist. There are a few of us working on it with various setups (myself included). So hopefully we can get something that is more plug and play for crawlers this summer.

  3. Re: ROS for hobby use

    I am in fact a ROS user, both professionally and amateur-ly but I have found little evidence of other hobby use. I think you are probably right that the need to configure a whole ROS installation is off-putting to many users. That being said, the existing library of packages is huge and function that could be brought to projects is amazing and surely quite a draw...

    I'm really intrigued by what you said about the need for a separate controller being an issue. Do you think that if this could be worked around that would make it more attractive?

  4. #4

    Re: ROS for hobby use

    As Kevin mentioned, there are a few of us who are trying to tinker with ROS. It looks like a great system to use, but as mentioned, figuring out how to install it and use it properly can be a bit confusing and complicated, but as you mentioned that once you get over the hurdles, than there are a lot of interesting things that you have access to.

    As for having to use two separate processors, yes that can be a deterrent. I wish there was more support for more of the Arm processors and easy to install. I believe progress is being made on that front, but it would be great if there were official (or semi official ) releases for processors like the Raspberry Pi, Beagle Bone Black, Odroid. Note: I have seen instructions for installing ROS on several of these, but in many case it is an older release of ROS on an earlier version of the OS...

    Also a side note to this, building a robot to run on Linux itself is pretty big learning curve. It has a much higher learning curve than using a simple processor board like Arduino or Basic Stamp...

    Example: Today I am receiving a new ODroid U3 board and with it a 16gb emmc board that has I believe Ubuntu 13.10 installed on it. Last time I checked, there were no installs for 13.10, however I do know that at least at one point, the owner of Hardkernel (Odroid), had a turtlebot working on an Odroid. If I remember correctly it was shown in the new online magazine for the Odroid (

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Portland, OR
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    Re: ROS for hobby use

    I just had 13.10 working on my ODROID-XU, albeit without Unity/canonical. Pretty sure you can do the same for the U3 (mine is on its way too, awesome boards).

  6. #6

    Re: ROS for hobby use

    Thanks Andrew,

    Good to know. I assume you installed from source?

  7. #7

    Re: ROS for hobby use

    the need to configure a whole ROS installation is off-putting to many users
    Let me soapbox a little bit.

    That's an understatement. An environment that relies on *replacing the "cd" shell command* is, in my opinion, irredeemable.

    I ended up writing my own little message bus on top of ZeroMQ, and my own little process monitor (similar to UNIX "init") and have about 20 different collaborating processes now for my rover. I built some simple functions to bind variables to "expose" and "listen" on the bus. If I bind a global variable to listen to "/node/gps/N," it will receive the GPS latitude whenever that updates. If I bind a struct member to "/node/wheel/fl/speed" to publish, then whenever I update the value of that variable in the struct, that will be picked up and published on the message bus.

    The message bus also supports shared memory mapped buffers, so I use it for video frames, too. Works great! Latencies are sub-millisecond.

    My "init" process accepts RPC (from a simple command line utility) to "add" or "remove" a process. A process is simply a command line to start. The init will start it, and detect errors and re-start, with a restart time back-off. The same command-line tool can also list the status of all the started/configured processes, and you can remove a process from the list of managed processes.

    Finally, there's a single shell script that starts the thing, by:
    - starting the messaging crossbar
    - starting the init process
    - for each node I want to run, tell the init process about it

    And, finally, my "make" scripts will "killall" for whatever program it's re-building. Thus, if I re-build the camera capture code, it will kill the camera capture processes once it's done building, and the init process will detect this death and re-start it, with the new executable that was just built, so it in-place updates a live system!

    The base of this system took just two evenings to write, and it works very well for me. The draw-back is that, any library I want to integrate, I have to take the library, and build my own binding to this system, rather than using some integration that may already exist for ROS. To me, that's a totally fine trade-off :-)

    I have the same overall system architecture as most ROS projects: A "heavy" Linux box runs all the smarts, and then microcontrollers for the I/O. I actually have four controllers: A Polulu Micro Maestro for steering servos, two RoboClaws for four-wheel speed/odometrics, and a ATMega32u4 for miscellaneous I/O (bumper detector, GPS serial I/O, I2C compass, etc.)

  8. #8

    Re: ROS for hobby use

    Hi All
    I'm a hobbyist and i run ROS on 2 robots they are rovers 1 runs ROS on a beagleBoard motors are controlled a arduino uno soon to a adruino due. The beagleboard is a pain to use for a amateur (me) vision is slow and remote logins with a GUI is also slow SSH works well. Once its finished it responds to ROS commands but with out a kinect or a laser scanner navigation is limited. The other robot runs ubuntu 12.4 on a I3 with 8 gigs of memory weights about 40 KG with multiple arduinos 1 for the base 1 for the arm and and 5 for motor controller.
    from where i stand now I wouldn't go back, ROS has to much on offer for a amateur but comes with a steep learning curve. The information for a hobbyist to learn are hard to find very few blogs with people using ROS at a amateur level. I had a look at the turtlebot launch files and compared to the previous one they are harder to read for a beginner with limited experience

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
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    Re: ROS for hobby use

    Peter your blog is great! I've read through nearly the whole thing. Great build progress!

  10. Re: ROS for hobby use

    @jwatte - Are you saying you were so disgusted by ROS that you decided basically to make your own, more hardcore version?... I really admire your ambition (and achievement). Perhaps less so your sanity...

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