Experiences with ROS 2 on our robots

This blog post presents some issues which came up when we migrated from ROS 1 and started using ROS 2. We assume that other people might run into them too. Therefore, we will describe the problems and possible solutions below. Our use case of ROS 2 is a bit different than most systems that currently use ROS 2. We use a team of humanoid robots in RoboCup Soccer. Therefore we have on the one hand differences from using a humanoid robot (500+ Hz control loop cycle) and on the other hand from the league (no network connection to the robot after starting the code).

Scheduling

We have many nodes (~45) running concurrently when we start our full software stack. Most of them have additionally multiple threads. At the same time, some of them, e.g. the walking, need to be executed with a constant and high (500+ Hz) rate. This leads to some issues with the default Linux scheduler. Setting the nice value of the processes was not enough to solve this because it does not necessarily reduce latencies. In ROS 1 it was enough for us to assign the processes to specific CPUs using the “taskset” command, but with ROS 2 we still had issues with this. We finally resolved it by also using the “isolcpus” kernel parameter which forbids the scheduler of using the specified CPU core. Therefore, the process can run freely on its own CPU without any interruptions. Using a real time kernel would probably be a better, but also more complicated solution that we will investigate in the future. More information can be found in the following ROSCON talk: https://roscon.ros.org/2019/talks/roscon2019_concurrency.pdf

Executor Performance

One of our largest issues was the extreme performance drop between ROS 1 and ROS 2. Simple nodes that only took a few percent of a core before, now needed a complete core for themselves. Basically, almost every node was running at 100% CPU usage. It took us some time to realize that the issue comes from the fact that we have a lot of messages per second (e.g. /joint_states is sent with 500 Hz) and thus the badly implemented standard executor was totally overloaded. Luckily, iRobot already did a lot of work on this and created an “Events Executor” for rclcpp (https://github.com/ros2/design/pull/305). Unfortunately, this executor is not yet in the master. Furthermore, there is no such thing for rclpy yet. By using it, we reached node performance values similar to ROS 1 with our C++ nodes. But we also needed to rewrite some nodes from Python to C++ as it was otherwise not possible to run our complete software stack on our 8 core CPU. Unfortunately, all standard ROS 2 nodes, e.g. robot state publisher, use the default implementation and therefore needed to be manually patched by us. This also includes the tf listener. The repository containing the stand-alone Events Executor can be found here: https://github.com/irobot-ros/events-executor/ Our patched versions of rclcpp and other packages are linked here: https://github.com/ros2/design/pull/305#issuecomment-1133757777

Callbacks and Timers

When you are in a callback or timer thread (so anything that is handled by the spinning), it is not possible to receive other callbacks per default. This means for example that you can not wait to get a tf transformation, as you will never receive anything while waiting for it. The same is the case for simulation time callbacks in rclpy. This leads to the time not progressing inside callbacks which leads to other issues. The issue is solved in rclcpp by spinning a callback group containing the time callback in a separate thread, but the isolated execution of specific callback groups is not supported in the current implementation of the Python executor (see https://github.com/ros2/rclpy/issues/850). Although there are multi-threaded Executors available, they seem to not solve the issue completely. If there are many callbacks to handle, they might not manage to handle the correct one in time before you run into a timeout. Interestingly, the order in which the subscriptions are created influences this behavior and sometimes issues can be resolved by ordering them differently.

FastDDS

Sometimes FastDDS fails to list nodes / topics after restarting a node while other nodes are running. The FastDDS discovery server (see https://fast-dds.docs.eprosima.com/en/latest/fastdds/ros2/discovery_server/ros2_discovery_server.html) is similar to the concept of a rosmaster in ROS 1 and should fix this issue.

There are issues with callbacks not arriving in C++ on ROS 2 rolling under Ubuntu 22.04 and FastDDS, which was reintroduced as the default DDS for rolling. We observed these issues our self in our own code base, but they are also the reason why nav2 is not released for rolling. See https://github.com/ros-planning/navigation2/issues/2648 for information regarding the release of nav2 for rolling and humble as well as https://discourse.ros.org/t/nav2-issues-with-humble-binaries-due-to-fast-dds-rmw-regression/26128 and https://discourse.ros.org/t/fastdds-without-discovery-server/26117/14 for a more general discussion. Switching to CycloneDDS solved these issues for us, but we still need to build nav2 ourselves.

CycloneDDS Configuration

Cyclone allows a lot of further settings. Unfortunately, this is just documented in the Cyclone documentation. One important setting when working with large messages, e.g. images, is the kernel queue size (see https://github.com/ros2/rmw_cyclonedds). For Cyclone configuration related things one needs to go to https://cyclonedds.io/docs/cyclonedds/latest.

To activate CycloneDDS follow the steps on https://github.com/ros2/rmw_cyclonedds.

The biggest problem that we were facing with Cyclone is that it can only operate on a fixed network configuration which cannot be changed at runtime. The default network adapter that is used it determined by a ranking. Wired adapters have the highest priority, loopbacks the lowest. Adapters can also be specified manually in the cyclone config file. Issues arise if the selected adapter is not available, e.g. because the ethernet cable is unplugged from the robot after starting the software. In our case, that is quite often the case because an ethernet cable for debugging is removed or the wifi disconnects. We solved this issue by creating a bridge network containing the wired adapter. This results in the adapter being available even when the cable is unplugged. Cyclone is then configured to use this bridge network adapter.

There is a fix already proposed for cyclonedds which enables optional adapters, but it is not merged at the time of writing (see https://github.com/eclipse-cyclonedds/cyclonedds/pull/1336). It will also only partially fix the problem, as cyclone will continue to try to use the adapter that was connected when it was first started, and not dynamically switch to another one.

As our robot uses the builtin ethernet adapter internally for the camera, external devices such as laptops are connected via a usb2lan adapter. This introduced the problem that its network interface name might change due to different brands etc. We mitigate this by only using adapters from a single brand and adding a udev rule that always assigns the same name to it. It is then included by this name in the bridge interface described above.

ROS Domain ID

While the default in ROS 1 was that you use your local roscore, in ROS 2 the default is to communicate with anybody in the network. This can quite quickly lead to issues if you have multiple robots or workstations running in the same network. Therefore it is crucial to set the ROS_DOMAIN_ID environment variable differently for every machine, as isolation is done as opt-in instead of opt-out like in ROS 1. The number of domain ids is also quite limited for large setups and a ros domain with many nodes might “leak” into the namespace of another domain id.

Colcon

One of the most unnecessary issues which could have been all avoided by keeping catkin as a build tool are the issues with colcon. Just to get the same quality of usage that you had with catkin tools by default you need to invest a lot of effort. First, there are many additional packages that you need to install (colcon-common-extensions, colcon-edit, colcon-clean). Then you need to set the verbosity level of colcon, as you will otherwise get completely spammed with unnecessary printouts (export COLCON_LOG_LEVEL=30). Colors are still not supported although there are PRs for it (https://github.com/colcon/colcon-core/pull/487). You might want to create a lot of aliases because the colcon commands are very verbose compared to catkin (e.g. colcon build – packages-up-to PACKAGE – symlink-install to build a specific package including its present dependencies).

Rebuilds

Due to changes in the build process, notably the removal of catkin’s devel folder, a default build now installs to the install folder, and the install folder has to be sourced. This makes it necessary to rebuild your package for every change you do, even in configuration files, launch files, scripts, or python code. Colcon has an option --symlink-install, but it often cannot be relied on and it does not include things like launch files or config files. So get used to rebuilding for every parameter you change in a config file.

Rate in Simulation

When using rate.sleep() in simulation, the node does not always sleep correctly. Sometimes it does not sleep at all, which leads to executing the code again in the same time step. https://github.com/ros2/rclcpp/issues/465

Sim Time

The usage of lower than real-time simulations (such as https://humanoid.robocup.org/hl-vs2022/) can be tricky due to packages using the walltime instead of the ros time for some timeouts etc.. The use_sim_time parameter which tells a node to use the time from the /clock topic instead of the wall time is now present at each node separately. This is the case because the concept of global parameters does not exist in ROS 2. It is therefore necessary to pass a launch file argument, e.g. sim:=true, through the full launch file hierarchy to set the use_sim_time parameter at the launch of each node individually.

Parameters

ROS 2 handles parameters quite differently compared to ROS 1. Parameters exist only in the scope of a single node. They need to be declared in the code to be available. During this declaration it is also possible to define the type, value ranges etc. The declaration process is quite verbose if you have a large number of parameters. You can use the following trick to skip the declaration if you don’t care about a neatly generated rqt reconfigure gui:

For Python:

node = Node("example_node", automatically_declare_parameters_from_overrides=True)

# or if you inhert from the Node class

class MyNode(Node):
    def __init__(self):
        super().__init__('example_node', automatically_declare_parameters_from_overrides=True)

For C++:

MyNode::myNode(const std::string &ns, std::vector<rclcpp::Parameter> parameters) :
    Node(ns + "my_node", rclcpp::NodeOptions().allow_undeclared_parameters(true).parameter_overrides(parameters).automatically_declare_parameters_from_overrides(true)) {

If you have any global parameter values, a blackboard node which holds these parameters is needed. It could look like this:

<node name="parameter_blackboard" pkg="demo_nodes_cpp" exec="parameter_blackboard" args="--ros-args – log-level WARN">
	<param name="use_sim_time" value="$(var sim)"/>
	<param from="$(find-pkg-share my_config_package)/config/global_parameters.yaml" />
</node>

Retrieving the global parameters from that blackboard is not as straightforward as querying the parameters of your local node. You need to perform a manual service call. Note that depending on the executor setup service calls might timeout or block indefinitely when done inside of callbacks.

Here is some demo code to retrieve the params of another node like the mentioned parameters blackboard.

def get_parameters_from_other_node(own_node: Node,
                                   other_node_name: str,
                                   parameter_names: List[str],
                                   service_timeout_sec: float = 20.0) -> Dict:
    """
    Used to receive parameters from other running nodes.
    Returns a dict with requested parameter name as dict key and parameter value as dict value.
    """
    client = own_node.create_client(GetParameters, f'{other_node_name}/get_parameters')
    ready = client.wait_for_service(timeout_sec=service_timeout_sec)
    if not ready:
        raise RuntimeError(f'Wait for {other_node_name} parameter service timed out')
    request = GetParameters.Request()
    request.names = parameter_names
    future = client.call_async(request)
    rclpy.spin_until_future_complete(own_node, future)
    response = future.result()

    results = {}  # Received parameter
    for i, param in enumerate(parameter_names):
        results[param] = parameter_value_to_python(response.values[i])
    return results

TF Node Spam

By default in C++ a tf listener creates its own node just to listen to tf updates in parallel. This is not needed anymore, as rclcpp supports spinning of specific callback groups using their own executor. To lower the overhead and reduce spam in e.g. the rqt node view we therefore suggest that you should replace the following instantiation of the tf listener

tf2_ros::Buffer tfBuffer{node->get_clock()};
tf2_ros::TransformListener tfListener{tfBuffer};

with this one

tf2_ros::Buffer tfBuffer{node->get_clock()};
tf2_ros::TransformListener tfListener{tfBuffer, node};

The spinning of the callback group is done with the default executor. You would need to patch tf2_ros your self to use the more performant EventsExecutor. This is especially relevant as /tf callbacks might arrive at high frequency.

All of this does not apply to Python, as neither the separate callback groups nor the EventsExecutor are implemented for it…

Unreleased Packages

One thing that is not a major deal breaker but still annoying are missing releases for some packages. There are always some packages, e.g. rqt_tf_tree, that are not released as apt packages (for rolling) although their code works fine. It just seems like there is a lack of maintainers for ROS 2. We hope that this changes when support for ROS 1 runs out and people can concentrate on ROS 2.

Environment Setup

There are some things that you can set in your ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc:

# reduce colcon spam
export COLCON_LOG_LEVEL=30
# make logs colorful
export RCUTILS_COLORIZED_OUTPUT=1
# format logs in terminal
export RCUTILS_CONSOLE_OUTPUT_FORMAT="[{severity}] [{name}]: {message} ({function_name}() at {file_name}:{line_number})"
# force using CycloneDDS as FastDDS is currently broken
export RMW_IMPLEMENTATION=rmw_cyclonedds_cpp
# source ros
source /opt/ros/rolling/setup.zsh
# source workspace
source $HOME/colcon_ws/install/setup.zsh
# enable autocompletion
eval "$(register-python-argcomplete3 ros2)"
eval "$(register-python-argcomplete3 colcon)"
# reduce depraction warning spam in colcon
export PYTHONWARNINGS='ignore:::setuptools.command.install,ignore:::setuptools.command.easy_install,ignore:::pkg_resources'
# always set a domain ID (should be unique in your network)
export ROS_DOMAIN_ID=42
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Results of Humanoid League Survey

This year we were, unfortunately, eliminated from the competition quite early. So we used our time to do a small survey with all teams that participated this year in the Humanoid League Kid-Size (11 teams). In our opinion, there is still a lack of knowledge what other teams are doing. Thus, teams are trying to come up with solutions for problems that other teams have already solved. We hope that this small survey will help to mitigate this issue. Naturally, we only give a very abbreviated version here with almost all details missing. So please just talk to the corresponding teams to know more.

All teams in the league were happy to share their knowledge with us. We thank them for their openness, since otherwise this survey would not have been possible.

We also hope to continue this survey in the next years, which would also allow tracking the development of the league over time. Maybe it would also be possible to require filling out such a survey during registration for the next RoboCup.

The following abbreviations will be used:

BH: Bold Hearts

CIT: CIT Brains

HBB: Hamburg Bit-Bots

ICH: Ichiro

ITA: ITAndroids

NU: Nubots

RHO: Rhoban Footbal Club

RB: ROBIT

RF: RoboFei

KMU: Team-KMUTT

UA: UTRA Robosoccer

Participation in the Humanoid Virtual Season (HLVS)

We asked if teams will be participating in the next HLVS. The majority (CIT, HBB, ITA, NU, UA) have already participated and will participate again. BH and KMU are thinking to maybe start participating. ICH and RB said that they are already doing too many other competitions. Similarly, RHO and RF said that they have no time.

For any teams that want to create a Webots model of their robot, we would like to point you to these tools, which might help you:

Creating a URDF from a Onshape CAD assembly https://github.com/Rhoban/onshape-to-robot

Creating a Webots proto model from URDF: https://github.com/cyberbotics/urdf2webots

Open Source

The number of teams making their code and hardware (partially) open source is very high (see Figure). A list is given below. We also added direct links to specific parts in the following section if we knew them, but if there is no link provided, there might still be code available by the team, so have a look.


BH

Partially

https://gitlab.com/boldhearts/

CIT

Partically

https://github.com/citbrains/

HBB

Open

https://github.com/bit-bots/

https://cad.onshape.com/documents/8c6aa9a8917f764cb7039c2d/w/af71e5083243affec9ac82a8/e/e42d9814ef6f704f62b6758c

ICH

Partially

https://github.com/ichiro-its

ITA

Partially

https://gitlab.com/itandroids/open-projects

NU

Open

https://github.com/NUbots

RHO

Open

https://github.com/Rhoban/

https://cad.onshape.com/documents/41654e89e61a392d020b728c/w/d555ceec170d351622b789de/e/4c9a04a707c36ac7ad2ca0f8

RB

Closed

RF

Open

https://github.com/RoboFEI/RoboFEI-HT_2022_SOFTWARE

KMU

Closed

UA

Open

https://github.com/utra-robosoccer

Software

Computer Vision

The rise of CNNs and deep learning has also affected the Humanoid League. Almost all teams use either some kind of YOLO or similar CNNs. The only exception is NU which use their own visual mesh approach.

HBB can also be noted as they not only use bounding box output but also segmentations for the field area and the lines. These are then later used as features for the localization.

BH

Darknet as framework with small custom network

CIT

YOLOv4 tiny

HBB

YOEO (custom network combining segmentation for field+lines and bounding box for ball+goalposts+intersections) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356873226_YOEO_-_You_Only_Encode_Once_A_CNN_for_Embedded_Object_Detection_and_Semantic_Segmentation

ICH

YOLOv4 tiny

ITA

YOLOv4

NU

Visual Mesh https://github.com/Fastcode/VisualMesh

RHO

YOLOv5

RB

YOLOv4-tiny

RF

MobileNet

KMU

Custom CNN

UA

Pretrained YOLOv4

Distance Estimation

Just detecting the different features on the camera image is not enough. We also need their position relative to the robot. One way to solve this issue is by circumventing it through working completely in image space (BH, RF). It is also possible to use the size of the ball on the image, as its real size is known. This is used by NU and UA.

The most common approach is (not surprisingly) inverse perspective mapping (IPM). Here the height of the camera (given through forward kinematics) and the angle (forward kinematics + IMU) are used together with an intrinsic camera calibration to project a point in image space to Cartesian space. A well tested and maintained package for ROS 2 can be found here: https://github.com/ros-sports/ipm

This year, no team used stereo vision to solve this problem.

BH

Working in image space

CIT

IPM

HBB

IPM

ICH

Simplified IPM (no camera calibration, fixed height)

ITA

IPM

NU

IPM + ball size

RHO

IPM

RB

IPM

RF

Working in image space

KMU

IPM

UA

IPM + ball size

Localization

Since localization is not necessarily needed to score a goal, it is neglected by many teams. There are four teams (BH, NU, RF, KMU) that don’t have a finished localization. ICH uses a simple approach based on the distance to the goals.

The most commonly used approach is the particle filter (CIT, HBB, ITA, RHO, UA) based on different features.

BH

No localization

CIT

Particle filter (lines, intersections, goal posts)

HBB

Particle filter (line points)

ICH

Distance between goals

ITA

Particle filter (field boundary, goal posts)

NU

Working on particle filter (lines, goal posts)

RHO

Particle filter (line intersections, goal posts)

RB

Monte Carlo (intersections)

RF

No localization

KMU

No localization

UA

Particle filter (AMCL)

Walking

One of the hardest parts for many teams is getting their robot to walk stably. Bipedal walking is still a very active research topic, and therefore it is not surprising that there are various approaches used in the league.

Many teams use some a pattern generator. Here quintic splines are mostly used. This is due to the fact that RHO wrote an open source walk controller called IKWalk that is now also used by BH. It was further improved by HBB who added automatic parameter optimization. This version is also used by NU.

Another approach is to use the Zero Moment Point (ZMP) (CIT, ITA).

One interesting idea that we got from ITA is the following: when using a PD controller based on IMU data to stabilize the robot it makes sense to use the direct values from the gyro (angular velocity) as the D value instead of a computed derivative (which is more noisy).

BH

Rhoban IKWalk

CIT

ZMP based pattern generator

HBB

Quintic splines, IMU PD control, phase modulation, parameter optimization https://2022.robocup.org/download/Paper/paper_19.pdf

ICH

Darwin-OP walk controller with own additions

ITA

ZMP, gravity compensation, PD control

NU

Hamburg Bit-Bots walk

RHO

Cubic splines

, foot pressure stabilization

RB

Pattern generator, IMU+foot pressure stabilization

RF

Sinoid

KMU

Pattern generator

UA

Hardcoded trajectories

Getting Up

All teams except HBB use manual keyframe animations for their standing up motion. Many of them told us that they are annoyed by this as it requires a lot of retuning.

HBB is the only team that follows a completely different approach, which is very similar to their walking approach. It uses Cartesian quintic splines to generate the motion and PID controller to stabilize it. The parameters are optimized automatically and it can be transferred to other robots. If you are interested, you can have a look here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356870627_Fast_and_Reliable_Stand-Up_Motions_for_Humanoid_Robots_Using_Spline_Interpolation_and_Parameter_Optimization

Kick

Similarly to the stand up motion, the kick is also solved by almost all teams using a keyframe animation.

There are two exceptions. First, HBB uses again an approach that similarly to their walking and getting up. It also allows defining the kick direction. We don’t have a paper about it (yet) but you can see a general overview here https://robocup.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Praktikumsbericht.pdf

Another approach is used by ITA that uses also splines for the kick movement but stabilizes it using the ZMP.

Decision Making

Many teams still rely on simple approaches as state machines (BH, ICH, KMU, UA) or simple if-else combination, also called decision trees, (RB, RF).

Others use more sophisticated approaches like Hierachical Task Network planner (CIT) or behavior tress (ITA).

But some teams did also develop their own approaches. HBB developed a completely new approach that is somewhere between a behavior tree and a state machine. NU did a custom framework that is based on subsumption.

One team (RHO) did also use direct reinforcement learning.

It is also one of the software categories where there are the most different approaches used.

BH

State Machine

CIT

Hierachical Task Network (HTN) planner

HBB

Dynamic Stack Decider

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350168815_DSD_-_Dynamic_Stack_Decider_A_Lightweight_Decision_Making_Framework_for_Robots_and_Software_Agents

ICH

State Machine

ITA

Behavior tree

NU

Subsumption-like approach

RHO

State Machine + Reinforcement learning

RB

Decision tree

RF

Decision tree

KMU

Finite State Machine

UA

Multiple State Machines

Hardware

Material

BH

3d printed, aluminum

CIT

Fiber glass, aluminum, TPU, PLA

HBB

Carbon fiber, stainless steel, aluminum, TPU, PLA

ICH

Aluminum, carbon fiber, stainless steel, PLA

ITA

Aluminum

NU

Aluminum (legs), 3d printed (rest)

RHO

Aluminum

RB

Aluminum

RF

Carbon fiber, aluminum, 3d printed

KMU

Aluminum

UA

3d printed

Controller Board

Many teams are still relying on old hardware from Robotis, such as the CM730. We also heard multiple complains about them, which aligns with our own experience with them.

Some teams also made their own solutions using some sort of microcontroller.

We have investigated this topic before (https://robocup.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/dxl_paper-4.pdf) and found a better solution (called QUADDXL) that allows much higher control rates and is less error prune. This was now also used in the new robot of CIT.

BH

CM730

CIT

Custom QUADDXL based https://github.com/citbrains/SUSTAINA-OP/tree/master/electronics/MainBoard_ver2_2

HBB

QUADDXL based https://github.com/bit-bots/wolfgang_core

ICH

CM740

ITA

CM730

NU

CM740, own controller in progress

RHO

Rhoban DXL, microprocessor based

RB

Own board, STM microprocessor based

RF

Own board, soon open source

KMU

Own board, microprocessor based

UA

U2D2

Camera

Most teams are using a Logitech webcam (C920 and similar ones). Some teams use industrial cameras. These have the advantage that they mostly have a global shutter and are more sensitive, allowing for a shorter shutter speed, thus reducing the blurriness of the images.

As connection USB and Ethernet are the two used options. We would like to hint to a known issue of USB3 Wifi interference https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6670488

If you are interested how to integrate power over Ethernet in your robot, so that you only need a single cable for your Ethernet camera, you can have a look at our CORE board https://github.com/bit-bots/wolfgang_core

BH

C920

CIT

e-CAM50_CUNX

HBB

Basler ACE-ACA2040-35gc Ethernet + Cowa lense LM5NCL 1/1.8” 4mm C-Mount

ICH

C930

ITA

C920

NU

Flir Blackfly, fisheye, UBB3

RHO

PointGrey Blackfly GigE camera

RB

C920

RF

Lenovo, C920 soon

KMU

C920

UA

C920

Leg Backlash

One of our current hardware issues was the extreme backlash in the legs, meaning that you can move the foot a lot while the motors are stiff. Therefore, we especially asked the teams about this too.

For most teams this is also one of their largest hardware issues. The problem comes from the backlash of the servos (e.g. 0.25° for a Dynamixel XH540 or 0.33° for a Dynamixel MX-106), from deformations in the leg parts and from the leg-torso connection.

One solution is using parallel kinematics like CIT, but this results in other issues (e.g. more complicated kinematics, not able to use URDF, …).

Some teams tried to keep serial kinematics and reduce the different factors that introduce the backlash. NU used new legs made of thick aluminum together with needle roller bearings (https://au.rs-online.com/web/p/roller-bearings/2346912 and https://www.robotis.us/hn05-t101-set/?_ga=2.226272029.682397097.1657712939-1062027158.1657712938). Similarly HBB, RHO and RB use bearings in the connection between legs and torso.

Infrastructure

Programming Language

BH

C++, Python

CIT

C++, Python

HBB

C++, Python

ICH

C++, Python

ITA

C++; Python+Matlab for tools

NU

C++

RHO

C++, some Python for RL

RB

C++

RF

C++, Python

KMU

C++, Python

UA

Python

Configuration Management

An often overseen point in software is that you do not only need your own code but also an operating system including a set of installed dependencies, network configurations, USB device configurations, etc. It can easily happen that the systems of the different robots diverges from each other. Also if a system needs to set up from scratch, it may require some work.

Some teams do the complete process manually, while others clone their disk images or have some small scripts that automate the process (partially).

We found that using a system like Ansible to do this is very helpful. It makes the process reproducible, reduces human errors and documents the process (reducing the truck factor).

BH

Ansible

CIT

Partially automatic

HBB

Ansible

ICH

Script

ITA

Manual

NU

Script

RHO

Cloning image

RB

Manual

RF

Manual

KMU

Manual

UA

Manual

Getting the code on the robot

At some point we need to get our software on the robot. While this seems to be a trivial thing, we were still curious how other teams are doing it.

One often used approach (CIT, ICH, iTA, RF) is to just use git on the robot to pull the newest software version. While this seems straight forward, it poses some issues in our opinion. First, all software needs to be committed to the git before it can be tested on the robot and, second, your robot always needs access to the git (so internet access).

Some teams (NU, RHO) just copy the compiled binaries on their robot. We did something similar in the past, but since our robots have faster CPUs than our laptops, we decided on switching to copying it to the robot and building there. This is also done by BH, RB, and KMU.

While many teams just use a normal scp (ssh copy), HBB, RHO and NU use rsync with the option to only copy modified files, which optimizes the time needed for getting the code onto the robot. We also use a small script to facilitate the process. You can find it here https://github.com/bit-bots/bitbots_meta/blob/master/scripts/robot_compile.py

BH

scp

CIT

git

HBB

rsync + build on robot via custom script

ICH

git

ITA

git

NU

compile on laptop + copy

via rsync

RHO

compile on laptop + rsync

RB

Copy + build on robot

RF

git

KMU

scp + compile on robot

UA

docker

Testing and Continuous Integration

Many teams (CIT, ITA, RHO, RB, RF, KMU) don’t use any kind of automated testing system or CI. The most commonly used approach are Github Actions (ICH, NU, UA).

BH

CI for unit tests

CIT

No testing or CI

HBB

Had some tests and CI for previous ROS 1 version but not transferred to new ROS 2 version yet. Jenkins was used as platform

ICH

Github Actions

ITA

No testing or CI

NU

Building and tests with Github Actions

RHO

No CI but manual testing script for robot hardware

RB

No testing or CI

RF

No testing or CI

KMU

No testing or CI

UA

Github Actions

Usage of ROS

ROS seems to have a continuous rise in usage in the Humanoid League. This follows observations that were already done in other leagues (e.g. @Home, rescue), whereby now the large majority of teams use it. Additionally, there is now the question if teams are still using ROS 1 which is now in its last version or have already switched to ROS 2.

We just switched from ROS 1 to ROS 2 and have identified an array of issues, which are probably coming from the fact that it has not been used a lot for humanoid robots until now. But we will create another article about that.

Interesting to see is that some teams only use ROS for logging or debugging. This is probably a good approach to profit from some of ROS strongest advantages without needing to rewrite a lot of the own code base.

BH

ROS 2 Foxy

CIT

Only for logging

HBB

ROS 2 Rolling

ICH

No but plan on using it

ITA

ROS 1 but are switching to ROS 2

NU

No, have their own system Nuclear

RHO

No

RB

ROS 1

RF

ROS 2 Foxy

KMU

ROS 2

UA

ROS 1

Operating System

Almost all teams use some version of Ubuntu on their robot. The only exception is NU that use a custom Arch Linux.

No team uses a real time kernel. But we heard from multiple teams that they were having issues with their motions (especially the walking) not running smoothly when the whole software stack was started. In our experience this is an issue with the default Linux scheduler which will move your motion processes around between cores and interrupt it to run other processes. Some teams try to avoid this by setting the nice level of the important processes. For us this was not enough to solve the problem. We assign our processes to different CPU cores via “taskset” and make sure that the scheduler does not use these by setting “isolcpus”. This approach worked well for us.

We will explore the usage of real time kernels in the future.

Organization

We also asked how teams are organizing themselves. Some teams (CIT, HBB, ITA, NU, RB, RF, UA) do weekly meetings for organization and/or working. Almost all teams are using Git (with GitHub being the most commonly used provider). The only exception is RB that uses Slack to exchange their code between each other.

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Bit-Bots win the Brazil Open with a 3:1 win against the World Champion

The Brazil Open is a RoboCup tournament that was hosted online and in simulation. The games were played with almost the same simulation setup that was used in the world cup, where we had successfully reached the third place. To make computation easier, it was decided that the games will only be done with one robot against one robot.

The tournament was setup in a league format where every team played against every other team. We had successfully beaten all but one team, where we were only able to draw the game. The final game for us was going to be against the world champion Starkit, who had won every game in the competition so far. Thus we went into the last game, hoping for a win, but expecting to lose it.

If you want to see the final game for yourself, you can watch it including commentary from us and from Starkit here:


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THIRD PLACE IN THE WORLD CUP

We have officially won our third place match against the CIT Brain team. It was an incredibly close game. It even caused multiple issues with the simulation, forcing restarts of the simulation. Due to this the game had to be delayed by 5 hours. We had to wait even longer and we struggled with containing our excitement and anxiousness about the game.

When the game started it was explained that there were a few technical issues that would be explained throughout the stream and we still had no idea what had happened.

In the first half we played a bit too aggressively according to the referee and one of our robots got a yellow card, another one got a warning. We got scared of losing one of our strikers… Our aggressive play did help us to score a first goal though.
The simulator crashing after the first half saved us though. For the second half all cards were reset, but to make up for it, the CIT Brains got the kick off again.

We hoped that one of the major advantages of the simulation would be, that we would not have to struggle with hardware issues. However, we managed to actually do have hardware issues… and of course they were in this important game!
Our feet got stuck in each other and we didn’t manage to get them apart again. Luckily our robot was reset to outside of the field soon after and our hardware issues were solved again.

Watching the game, it felt like a real soccer game considering how much we screamed at the referee. Throughout a few questionable decisions happened, including putting the ball only centimeters in front of our goal. Our goalie positioned on its goal line, but was removed, because the goalie was now considered too close to the goal. Since our goal was without a goalie now, it was easy for CIT Brains to score.

They scored again later with another questionable referee decision.

Their luck did not hold though, because very close before the end of the match, the referee awarded a penalty kick to us and removed the goalie in a similar fashion to our earlier issues. We finally managed to equalize to a score of 2-2.

As there was no time left for the organizers to simulate and show a game including overtime, they decided to skip overtime. We instead immediately went to the penalty shoot out.

We got scared there, because from our tests we knew our penalty kicks can sometimes go inside the goal, but most of the time we would not hit the goal. However, the CIT Brains commentator told the viewers they had not tested their penalty behavior. So we got our hopes up again. During the first penalty kick, their robot took the ball and tried to dribble it into our goal. They were then removed from the playing area.

We managed to kick the ball after the referee allowed us to kick it, but the ball stopped moving right in front of the goal line.

For the following kicks the CIT Brain robot just stopped moving and we only got the ball very close to the goal line multiple times.

Our saving grace was our fourth shot.We finally managed to get past the goal line with the ball and scored a goal.

As the CIT Brains did not shoot in their fifth shoot, we managed to win the game with a final score of 3-2.

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Demonstration Game against Adult Size Sweaty

Today we had the opportunity to play against the adult size team Sweaty. They are currently the favorite to win the world championship of their league. As it was easy for us to change our software to play on the bigger field with a larger ball, we offered to play on the regular field of the adult size. We only used two robots, instead of our usual three or four, as that was necessary to play on the large field.

We were scared when we saw the size comparison between the robots, but early on already we seemed like the favorite to win the match, when we moved into the field and positioned correctly. Sadly, the Sweaty team did not move from the sidelines. They explained that there was probably a connection issue with the referee and the robots didn’t know they were allowed to start playing.

In the end we were able to score six goals on the large field.

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Semi Final

We played against Starkit in the semi final. They had shown an amazing performance in the previous games of the RoboCup and we were very excited to get to play against them. We fixed a few of our bugs last night, but did not make any major changes anymore. As we can not change our strategy in the middle of the game, it had to be rock solid.

We had to have our code uploaded at 12:30 and our game started at 20:30. This gave us a lot of time to just sit there anxiously and wait for the game.

In our earlier game today, we had issues, because it ran longer than we expected and our saved files went over the allowed size, which meant we lost them all. To ensure this could not happen again, we halved the amount of images we record. This could not break anything… right? RIGHT?
Well… it did.
Luckily we ran a test game and noticed it. This could have prevented our robots from moving at all and given a free win to Starkit.

This made us even more anxious about everything and if you were close to us, you probably heard us cheering, when we started moving at the very beginning.

In the beginning of the game Starkit robots immediately passed the ball between each other and managed to outplay us. Initially we managed to defend well against their amazing offense plays, but they were unstoppable.

Our goalie especially decided to do a few questionable moves. They were close to the ball, but decided to not kick the ball away from our goal, but rather run to the goal and try to ensure our safety from there. The Starkit robots didn’t give us enough time and managed to score again.

In another situation our goalie even ran to the enemy half one time to keep the ball further away from our goal. They managed to get past all of the opponents robots, but then decided the ball is safe enough now. They ran back to our goal and gave the Starkit robots the opportunity to score again.

The Starkit robots in the end managed to score seven goals against us. However, our robots didn’t lose their spirits. They did their best to keep up and did manage to get two goals for us.

We are really proud of what our robots managed to achieve. We are also excited to get to play in the third place match tomorrow against the CIT-Brains. If you want to watch it, it will be streamed at 10 here:
https://www.twitch.tv/robocuphumanoidfielda

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New Record in the Quarter Final – Bit-Bots reach the Semi Final

After the exciting game yesterday against the 01. RFC Berlin, we got to play in the quarter final. The drawing for us was to play against the Nubots. They had managed to score another goal in one of their group games, but we were reasonably confident that we could win the game. However, we were still anxious about having a breaking bug in our software that would prevent us from playing and winning against the Nubots.

When the game started, we were very happy, when our robots started walking, as this assured us that we should be able to play normally. The Nubots put up a fight in the beginning, but we managed to score a goal regardless.

Unfortunately, the referee didn’t count the goal for us, but instead gave a goalkick to the Nubots. We started to get anxious again, because the referee obviously had a bug there.

However, our robots were less phased than us and just waited their time until they were allowed to touch the ball again and confidently ran to the opposite goal and scored again. This time the referee did score the goal for us and we were up 1-0.

The Nubots didn’t put up any defense after this and we managed to score goal after goal. After the first half we were already up 7-0. As the time went on, we got excited about potentially beating the impressive 15-0 score that MRL had scored in a previous group match.

The second half progressed and we managed to beat their result with a single extra goal and finished the game 16-0 according to the official result. If the first goal had been counted for us, we would have maybe managed to win 17-0.

After the game we were told we had more time available than usual, because time is added after a goal in the knock out games, to account for some of the time the robots are not allowed to kick the ball after scoring a goal.

We are now looking forward to playing against Starkit in the semi final tonight at 20:30 (Berlin time).

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The objectively most exciting game so far

We just won our final group game and are still short of breath, because our hearts have been racing the whole time.
We already knew this would be an exciting game, because the 01. RFC Berlin defeated the IT Androids with the same score as us: 9-0.
However the IT Androids did not put up as much as a fight, as Berlin did.

Our excitement increased even more, when we found out, that our game was postponed, because the simulation had not finished yet. This was the first game of the competition where this was necessary.
We speculated it was because the simulation was more complex with our robots colliding more than the other robots have so far. So we knew we were in for an exciting game.

Already at the start of the game, the Berlin robots pushed us deep into our side of the field by playing the ball into our penalty area. However our robots managed to win the ensuing tackle against the other robots and their robot got penalized. We used the time we won and got the ball back to the middle of the field. However, this did not save us yet and their robots managed to push back again.
They even attempted a shot on the goal, but our heroic goalie managed to save the day and kept the ball out of the net. This was not the end of their attack. They even managed to convince the referee to give them a penalty kick.

They kicked the ball and it would have gone in, but the referee blew their (imaginary) whistle, because they had kicked the ball, while the referee had not allowed it yet.
That was our saving grace in this case. The attacker had to leave the field for 30 seconds and our robots got the opportunity to attack.
Just like the Berlin robots didn’t have much luck, we were also stopped by their good defense and couldn’t get the ball to pass the goal line.

After an exciting time of the ball being played by both teams in the middle of the field, we got our lucky break. Two of the Berlin robots got sent to the side of the field and our attacker managed to get past the only defender that was left. We used that opportunity and finally managed to rush to the goal and score.

Our robot in the middle of the field used the opportunity and cheered for their teammate who managed to get us the lead for the game.

However, the Berlin robots didn’t give up, they still managed to get close to scoring again. The referee saved us again, when they penalized their robots, because they again acted too early or tried to push us close to our goal.

We managed to carry our 1-0 lead into the second half and after a while it seemed like we had broken the spirit of one of the Berlin robots. After getting a penalty it just stopped moving in the middle of a step. The members of the 01. RFC Berlin told us this was due to a bug and the robot just crashed.
Our robots used this opportunity and managed to win the tackles in the opponents penalty area to score our second goal of the match.

With a 2:0 lead, our heart rates went slightly down again and we were happy about our lead.
However, the robot that had stopped moving, started to move again and the blue robots of the 01. RFC Berlin managed to get very close to scoring a goal and only centimeters saved us.

We managed to still play forward and save a few more close calls and achieved a final score of 4-0.

In the end, both our robotic and also our human members were exhausted, but also celebrated our great game.
We thank 01. RFC Berlin for the great game and we hope to meet you in the final again. (With the same result hopefully ;))

If you want to watch the game in realtime, a video of it is available here:
https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1067256488?t=01h24m36s

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Our first group game

We just had our first official game which we played against THMOS. We went in confident, but there are always surprises that can stop us. For example in the last few days we had an issue where we had a single “,” too much, which crashed our entire robot. As there is no way to fix any problems once the simulation has started, surprises can always happen.

However we got lucky and our software worked really well. Our opponents did not get as lucky. They had an issue where their robot just fell over at the start and slid off the map.

We managed to score a convincing 12:0 victory and are excited for our next games.

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RoboCup 2021 Starts

We are very excited that the RoboCup 2021 will have the first official games in our league tommorow. We will already be able to cheer our and the other robots in test games today. These games will be the end of the two setup days we had in which we got to test our software in depth again and and fix most of the bugs that we noticed.

All the games will be livestreamed on Twitch:
https://www.twitch.tv/robocuphumanoidfielda/
https://www.twitch.tv/robocuphumanoidfieldb/

Our first test game will be today at 17:40 (Berlin timezone) versus MRL-HSL. It will be livestreamed on the first of the two links above and we would be happy to watch it with you.

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