Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"The Robot Operating System (ROS) 101"

Hack a Day - The Robot Operating System (ROS) 101

Ever heard about the Robot Operating System? It’s a BSD-licensed open-source system for controlling robots, from a variety of hardware. Over the years we’ve shared quite a few projects that run ROS, but nothing on how to actually use ROS. Lucky for us, a robotics company called Clearpath Robotics — who use ROS for everything — have decided to graciously share some tips and tricks on how to get started with ROS 101: An Introduction to the Robot Operating System.


It appears they will be doing a whole series of these 101 posts, so check it out — they’ve already released numéro 2, ROS 101: A Practical Example. It even includes a ready to go Ubuntu disc image with ROS pre-installed to mess around with on VMWare Player!


Clearpath Robotics - ROS 101: Intro to the Robot Operating System

Since we practically live in the Robot Operating System (ROS), we thought it was time to share some tips on how to get started with ROS. We’ll answer questions like where do I begin? How do I get started? What terminology should I brush up on? Keep an eye out for this ongoing ROS 101 blog series that will provide you with a top to bottom view of ROS that will focus on introducing basic concepts simply, cleanly and at a reasonable pace. This guide is meant as a groundwork for new users, which can then be used to jump into in-depth data at If you are totally unfamiliar with ROS, Linux, or both, this is the place for you!

The ROS Cheat Sheet

This ROS Cheat Sheet is filled with tips and tricks to help you get started and to continue using once you’re a true ROS user. This version is written for ROS Hydro Medusa. Download the ROS Cheat Sheet here.

What is ROS?

ROS (Robot Operating System) is a BSD-licensed system for controlling robotic components from a PC. A ROS system is comprised of a number of independent nodes, each of which communicates with the other nodes using a publish/subscribe messaging model. For example, a particular sensor’s driver might be implemented as a node, which publishes sensor data in a stream of messages. These messages could be consumed by any number of other nodes, including filters, loggers, and also higher-level systems such as guidance, pathfinding, etc.


Clearpath Robotics - ROS 101: Practical Example

In the previous ROS 101 post, we provided a quick introduction to ROS to answer questions like What is ROS? and How do I get started? Now that you understand the basics, here’s how they can apply to a practical example. Follow along to see how we actually ‘do’ all of these things….

First, you will need to run Ubuntu, and have ROS installed on it. For your convenience, you can download our easy-to-use image here:

Login (username): user
Password: learn

Get VMWare Player, and use the virtual disk above. If you don’t want to use the provided image, follow the tutorial here (after installing Ubuntu 12.04):

Throughout the rest of the tutorials, we will be referencing the ROS cheatsheet available here.


If you're looking for something different and cool (and how can playing with a robotics OS not be cool?) check this out. And the VMWare player makes it really pretty easy to get started too!

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