I think it is time for all the larger open source software projects in
robotics to get together in a somewhat more structured way, and try to
start an international conference on the topic of free and open source
software for robotics...
I am thinking of a full-day event, linked to another (free, open access)
conference, and with a dedicated theme. I don't like what we have done
several times in the past already, that is, organizing a (paid) workshop on
a (paid) IEEE conference; I think we have enough visibility, credibility
and attractivity to stand on our own feet.
For the first, 2010, version of this International Symposium on Free and
Open Source Software for Robotics ("FOSSfoR"?), I would suggest the
- Theme 1: Interoperability. What should we do to improve the "end user"
experience in combining bits and pieces from the different projects in
order to build a new robotics application? This involves not only
compatibility of data structures, interfaces and build tools, but also
refactoring of basically all of our available code in order to realise
appropriate modules for "shopping" and composition by independent third
- Theme 2: Best Practices. What lessons have we learned from a full decade
of FOSS in robotics? What of our technologies and/or functionalities are
ready for industrial exploitation?
Each of the participating projects should make a presentation addressing
its view on both themes, followed with a critical, respectful discussion.
We could invite Davide Brugali (the Editor-in-Chief of the brand new
Journal of Software Engineering in Robotics <http://www.joser.org>) to give
a "keynote" presentation. Or someone from the newly emerging service
robotics industry, such as Bruno Maisonnier from Aldebaran Robotics, to
hear their point of view with respect to FOSS in robotics.
I definitely want to try to focus on, and to make a bridge to, the
industrial world of robotics: we _have_ some things to "sell", but we have
done a poor job until now in marketing them. We will also profit from
listening to some of the real needs on the marketplace that we are not
sufficiently aware of yet, or that we tend to sweep under the carpet. In
addition, it should be _us_ who are going to define the Open Standards of
the future robotics platforms, but the "market" is not hearing us yet.
I also have a suggestion for the location of the event: the 2010 Annual
Meeting of the European robotics research and industry networks (EURON and
EUROP), somewhere in April or May 2010. (The decision about the exact date
and venue is expected in the coming month...) The advantages of this
suggestion are: (i) it will be a free event, (ii) we will have the
opportunity to meet and discuss with the (European) robotics industry, and
(iii) in the 2009 edition, we had already two successful workshops around
Blender and Orocos. (And I am involved in its organisation already, which
makes some things easier.)
Another opportunity would be FOSDEM (<http://fosdem.org/2010/>, 6+7
February 2010, Brussels), that has already a well established track on
"embedded systems", and a robotics track would most probably be accepted
I am willing to organize the event (it will then be a sobre and minimal
organisation...), preferably in close cooperation with one person
of each of the major FOSS projects in robotics.
Let me know what you think about these suggestions...? Every suggestion of
mine can be critically discussed, including the concept, the name, the
location, the themes, the format,... And even the assumption that we need
a conference in the first place!
What can _not_ be denied, in my opinion, is that we lack a "meta-forum" for
this kind of inter-project discussions and cooperation... Maybe we could
(re)use the existing RoSta infrastructure
(<http://www.robot-standards.org/>) for that purpose? That project is over,
but it would be nice to perpetuate its ideas and concepts in some way or
another. Or shall we set up fossfor.org, with a mailinglist, mission
K.U.Leuven, Mechanical Eng., Mechatronics & Robotics Research Group
<http://people.mech.kuleuven.be/~bruyninc> Tel: +32 16 328056
EURON Coordinator (European Robotics Research Network) <http://www.euron.org>
Open Realtime Control Services <http://www.orocos.org>
Associate Editor JOSER <http://www.joser.org>, IJRR <http://www.ijrr.org>