Today I would like to inform you about one of my passions: ROS - the Robot Operating System.
What is ROS?
Let me first of all shortly explain what ROS is. The explanation is mainly very simple, because the name already tells you what it is: ROS is an Operating System for Robots. That's it, like Windows, MacOS or Ubuntu are Operating Systems for computers, Android or iOS are Operating Systems for Smartphone and so is ROS.
Well, that's the very short explanation, but ROS is of course so much more... Like all the other mentioned OS here are also more then "just" an Operating System. All of them do have their pros and conse, like it is for ROS as well. So, what are the benefits of ROS?
- Open Source
- Usability for EVERY robot
- Big Community
- Standard in mobile robotics
- Reuseability of software
- Hardware drivers
- Fine grained software packages
- Multiple programming language support
- Simple integration of nearly all Open Source libraries
- and a lot more ...
How did ROS get a passion for me?
If you are now curious, I recommend to start using it - NOW! ;) Check out the ROS Wiki and install the distribution ROS Kinetic Kame: Install ROS Kinetic. ROS Kinetic is the 11th version of ROS. The naming convention for a new distribution is alphabetic, where A and B have been alpha and beta version and ROS C-Turtle was the first official release, 10 years ago. I recommend this version as it is still the most stable one and the main distribution used at the moment. And I recommend to install it on top of Ubuntu 16.04! There are some other options, but again that is the most stable variant and they main one used by the community members. So here you will get most support and this one is most testet so that you won't struggle with additional issues next to learning the basics of ROS.
Meanwhile ROS became a big Open Source community project with contributors from all over the world and a lot of Universities and Research Institutes make use of it. That's how it became a standard in the field of mobile robotics and since a couple of years ROS is on it's mission to cover industry as well.
I personally joined the ROS community in 2012 (that time it was ROS Electric, which was still in use) at my own university where - today my boss - organized that time the first ROS Summer School at University of Applied Sciences Aachen. (Just a short advertisement in my own interest... If you are now interested learning ROS you should have a look to our yearly 2 weeks ROS Summer School in August in Aachen, Germany. Open for everyone worldwide.)
Yeah, in the last 5.5 years ROS took a big place in my life. First of all ROS is possible to make robots move...I mean - is there anything cooler you can think about then putting "life" into a robot and make it move the way you want it to?? I can't imagine a lot here ^^ That's how it got my interest, but it offers so much opportunities. Due to the fine grained package system you can use as much or as less ROS as you want. That makes it quite powerful to use for a lot of technical projects. Even if you just want to do some image processing: ROS brings you the hardware drivers for the camera - no need to program that on your own, ROS brings you an integration of OpenCV - no complicated include in your C++ or Python code or install hurdles for OpenCV itself, ROS brings a lot of image processing software packages - no need to program everything again and again from scratch... And so on. This fascinated and catched me, additionally the fantastic community, which will answer your questions nearly at every time of the day. And it's all for free, it's all Open Source - everyone can use it, everyone can contribute to it, great! And that's how a ROS sticker made it to the back of my car, of my smartphone case, on top of my Notebook, also a ROS Industrial sticker. ROS-i, ROS Industrial is a project based on ROS focusing the Industrial use of ROS, but it mainly belongs together. And I also bought an official Hoodie of the ROS Kinetic Kame distribution. The ROS mascot is a Turtle by the way - another reason to love ROS... <3
How did ROS get a profession for me?
Isn't it cool, if things just perfectly fit together? Starting with joining the ROS Summer School in 2012 at University of Applied Sciences Aachen I became very fast part of the inventory of the robotics lab there. I spent a lot of time in the lab for trying thing out and playing with the robots over there. It did not take too long to make the Professor there notice "Who is that student who is working all the time in my lab?" Well - he recognized me and I got a job as a student assistant at the lab. Since that I started together with my colleague to prepare the ROS Summer School for upcoming years. The first session I joined was more like "Uhm, there is this new Tool, it's called ROS... Check out what one can do with it?!". But from the second edition it got much more professional, we prepared RC car like robots for all groups and wanted them to compete in a challenge at the end. We prepared hand-out Tutorials to learn the basics and our knowledge did grow as well. But... it was a nightmare of work xD We hacked since the last minutes during the students breaks in our backroom to solve last occurring issues. That time ROS packages we were using were not that far, our knowledge was also just basics and a lot of more problems came together... But at the end it was a nice competition!
Well, lessons have been learned it from year to year the Summer School improved more and more - lasting on till today. So, from the first session with round about 10 participants, mainly from our own university the ROS Summer School did grow fast up to 70-80 participants from all continents all over the world. The interest in learning ROS did grow, ROS did grow, the community, the number of packages released, ROS got more and more popular, we got more and more professional with the training, the training material, the didactic concept. And some time in between I switched from the student assistant to a research and education assistant. Well, that's why ROS - an Open Source project (!) - is one pillar to save me a very enjoyable job. Thanks ROS!
I am proud to show the collection of a couple of T-Shirts from all the ROS Summer Schools I have participated/organized myself.
At least our Summer School was good enough to get a request for a big H2020 EU project - ROSIN. The ROSIN project is about... to sum it up in a populit way... "Make ROS great again!" and bring it to industry. So our part is mainly to teach ROS in industry and universities within ROSIN.
One special Shirt to mention, where I am as well quite proud of is the following one:
This one was our 5th edition of the ROS Summer School, but that time held in South Africa at our partner University: Tshwane University of Technology. Meanwhile we did another session at TUT as well, but that time we unfortunately didn't have T-Shirts ;)
That's it about ROS. Let me know, if you want to learn more about any details in the comments. I can for sure answer a lot of questions about ROS, but even more for sure not all of them :D ROS is such a big package tool and even after nearly six years I did by far not get all of it's tricks ;) OK, now it's up to me to fold my Shirts again. Luckily I am equipped with a magic clothes folder and I can start with the ROS Summer School Shirt from 2013, which was my first one :)