Category Archives: Robotics

Approaching a Consensus on Robotics Software

I’ve been playing with Robotics on and off for the past few months, it’s an area which I’m really interested in and really enjoy tinkering.

It’s now gotten to the stage where I’ve done almost enough reading and tinkering that I actually want to start trying to put some serious robots together and to that end I’ve been looking at some of the many robotics software frameworks which are available (just look at my robotics tag on delicious for some of the ones that I’ve deemed interesting enough to warrant further attention).

I’ve been pleased to find that there’s a high calibre crop of robotics frameworks which focus on reusable and modular components built upon a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Other than being good software practice to modularise ones code the crop of SOA robotics frameworks also make it much easier for hobbyists like myself to get into robotics with a reasonably priced robotics kit and offload processing to a more powerful machine.

The big three SOA based robotics frameworks which have attracted my attention through their solid reputations and many projects built on them are MRDS (Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio), ROS (Robot Operating System) and Fawkes.

Both ROS and MRDS support the Lego MindStorms NXT 2.0, which is my current vessel for Robotics exploration (an excellent Christmas present from my wife), but I’m ruling out the MRDS (despite it’s good reputation) because it requires me to run Windows.

I’m also ruling out Fawkes, though it has recently being picked by the Fedora Robotics SIG as the basis for their robotics spin, because whilst it seems like a very promising framework their new starter documentation is lacking and they don’t yet support the NXT. I will no doubt be revisiting Fawkes in the future.

Right now I’m looking at the documentation for ROS but unfortunately it seems it’s a pain to set up on anything other than Ubuntu. Hopefully it’s just that the documentation is out of date…

I’ve also started putting together a layer for Yocto to include some of the robotics packages I’ve come across and their dependencies – I’d love to build a Yocto powered robot in the near future!

Finally writing this blog post was prompted by the Robot Magazine covering MRDS and ROS recently: “THE NEXT BIG THING! Service Oriented Architectures – Two leading systems, MRDS and ROS, point to the future of robotics“.