the Robot Construction Kit

Relation to Others

What’s the difference with the Orocos Toolchain?

The Orocos Toolchain is the standard infrastructure required to build Orocos components. It contains the Real-Time Toolkit, typeGen/oroGen code generators and supportive components for deployment and task browsing.

The Rock toolchain is centered around the use of oroGen for component writing, and the Ruby language for system deployment and data analysis. In practice, what you get is:

  • use Ruby scripts to start your components and monitor them
  • use a model-based tool for large-scale system deployment, and benefit from its logging capabilities to do post-mortem analysis of system behavior.
  • use the data logger to log all data that your components generate, and use Ruby scripts to analyze this load of data. Replay the data into components for testing, or use the Rock UI to display it.
  • benefit from a large component repository

Important for existing Orocos users The development workflow in Rock does not encourage the use of the Orocos deployer and the RTT scripting language. Since they are both expensive to build, they are by default disabled when you build the Rock toolchain. However:

  • you can reenable OCL by removing the ‘ocl’ line in exclude_packages in autoproj/manifest
  • you can reenable the RTT scripting by changing PLUGINS_SCRIPTING_ENABLED from OFF to ON in autoproj/overrides.rb

How does Rock relate to the Robot Operating System (ROS)?

The Robot Operating System is similar to Rock in scope. It provides tooling, drivers and modules (called nodes) to support the generation of software for a wide variety of robots. While ROS started out to be mainly for indoor service robotics, the module and driver base has extended to other application areas recently.

Without giving a detailed comparison, we would like to point out a few points with regard to differences in paradigm between ROS and Rock:

  • ROS uses a topic based communication model, while Rock is connection based. While topic based communication is possibly simpler to use in some applications as it requires less management overhead, it also makes it harder to control the flow of information in the system.

  • ROS does not require a formal model, while Rock modules are defined using an abstract module description. Having a formal description of the module, allows higher-level runtime tools the management of state and connections.

  • Real-time applications can easily be implemented in Rock since it is directly based on the Orocos RTT. ROS also provides support for Orocos in real-time domains, but requires special interfacing.

  • Rock has the policy to split between libraries and modules, so that communication layer and functionality are separated. In this way, Rock plays nice with other systems. This is also the case for the bigger libraries in ROS like pcl and opencv, but does not seem to be a general policy.

  • Rock can use normal C++ classes (with restrictions) as interface types, while ROS requires a special compiler for the interface types. This makes separation of functionality and communication easier, as most of the libraries datatypes can be directly used for module communication.

  • Rock has native support for flexible module deployments. There is full control over how modules get split up into processes to avoid process boundaries for high interacting modules. This is also possible in ROS with the help of Nodelets, but not as transparent.

  • ROS has been around longer than Rock, has a larger library of modules and is more mature in its tooling.