YARP (Yet Another Robot Platform) is the software that represents the nervous system of the IIT humanoid robots, from iCub, the robot platform spread over many research centers in the world, up to the most recent R1. With 10 years of development behind it, YARP is launched as a highly reliable and first-class Open Source platform in comparison to other standards: being a light, multiplatform and multiprotocol platform, it works on board the robots, on server, not to mention Android smartphone.
On July 15th, 2016 IIT and TalenTour offered an introductory workshop for software specialists, manager and entrepreneurs wishing to share the news about platform development. The platform stemmed from robotics, but it is ready for a wider use just at the time of most thriving hype applications on InternetOfThings. This took place just a few days before the official launch of the new R1 robot, the first humanoid robot, which was proposed as a commercial product for household applications.
Open Innovation Workshop
IIT is a leading company in the field of robotics, which combines research and technologic transfer targets. It focuses on technologies, which may really affect company sustainability and be marketable, thus leading to new job creation in spin-off companies of the institute and linked industries. The humanoid robotics is reaching this target with an industrial product also from the software point of view. The whole project of the iCub platform is indeed Open Source and a LGPL license is assigned to it, thus making it easy to be adopted by those private companies focusing on proprietary module introduction, while the development system and the automatic test are based on backbones, which are more similar to industrial than university software.
For this reason, the team of the iCub facility have decided to promote cooperation with the local businesses with a view to enlarge the middleware users’ group in order to speed up its facility as well as contents evolution.
… and the district reacted: the attendants from multinational companies, small or medium-sized companies, start-ups and associations have promptly started a constructive dialogue with the organizers: some by posing questions during the networking stage, some by directly intervening as Polaris (gruppo RINA), Aizoon and Smartland , who were allowed to introduce their business and to define their specific cooperation outlook.
We finally mention the Robofriends Association, dedicated to the dissemination of the robotics education; the chances, which may stem in this field from a cooperation with IIT are endless!!
iCub and YARP
Main workshop lecturer and organizer for IIT was Lorenzo Natale, manager for the humanoid robots SW development, who held the introductory session about IIT and iCub and underlined the challenges linked to the interaction with human beings and the environment and the tools designed for the humans. These requirements fostered a great evolution in the field of recognition, handling and sensoring. For instance, iCub includes about 4500 sensors, including those sensors forming a peculiar sensitive “skin” on trunk and limbs, which allow tactile interaction as shown in the following video:
This huge and complex system is managed through a distributed architecture and the processing, which is more similar to mechanics, electronics and sensoristics takes partly place on board the robot. The application processing, which runs recognition, coordination and learning is carried out on external systems. Through this modular system as implemented in YARP, the applications may interact with the robotic platform and with deriving data thanks to a component-driven approach, which loosens HW complexity and makes the code reuse and sharing easier, thus speeding up and improving product quality.
The session has been extremely interactive: many questions were asked by attendants and Lorenzo gave many stimuli in the sectors, where IIT mostly foster a cooperation with SW experts, both from the point of view of process and contents. These sectors range from test technology development to broader module integration, for instance through DDS (Data Distribution Service) up to specific contents such as data control, safety and stream video compression.
Developing on iCub without iCub
YARP includes the possibility to simulate humanoid robot functionality, thus speeding up research and development. Silvio Traversaro held the workshop about GAZEBO, which implement the simulator for YARP-based robots, showing its architecture and lingering over its modular and flexibility features.
This is the balancing demo (Yoga++) , which was also shown live through the simulator during Italia’s got Talent.
Hence the physical availability of the robot is not indispensable for those, who start working for YARP and developing for iCub!
Quality of Service e DDS
Ali Paikan’s session ended the workshop. He analyzed in depth the architecture problems related to the development of YARP applications; the interaction among different systems and the dialogue among the processes. As regards the objects handling, for instance, the cameras of the eyes and the motors of the arms and hand must dialogue with the object recognition system and the motor control system. All this entails the presence of big data streams, which go through the robot “nervous system” and must be regulated so not to provoke data congestion. This is QoS (Qualità del Servizio) role, which is one of the most recent development areas for YARP. The growth of the robotic systems and their increased spreading outside the academic environment leads to the need to examine the standard software systems used in other areas, such as DDS.
Generally speaking these challenges have been already tackled in the industry, notably in the field of telecommunication and they can therefore build a particularly fruitful collaboration scenario between the institute and any partner with a long experience.
It’s just the beginning
In the late afternoon, after a well-deserved cocktail offered by IIT, the time of remarks and networking came. Ideas began to flow from the workshop attendants and institute researchers. Transferring humanoid robots from labs to homes and work environment within one year is an important challenge and enlarging the collaboration between IIT and the local firms leads to good openings for development.
The official presentation of the R1 robot, which took place a few days after our workshop, gives evidence of the importance of the events! It is high time that the companies expressed their feedback and proposals: the first step will be a thorough seminar, where the attendants will be stimulated to be working within a short time on YARP. This means to be able to quickly develop robotic applications, which are on the verge of marketability.
Should you be willing to accept the challenge, contact us through the link page and specify your interest in going deeper into the YARP topic or leave some comments on the same page: in case we receive enough subscriptions, we will soon announce the detailed extension workshop.