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Extend Robotics ROS2 contributions

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

We are still sore after shellebrating World Turtle Day which happens to be ROS 2 Iron Irwini release date!


Our Contributions


image_transport is the backbone of any non-local image processing in ROS/ROS2. The workhorses of image_transport architecture are the plugins.


REP 2001 defines image_transport_plugins as a core package of ROS2 perception entrypoint.


While migrating numerous Extend Robotics repositories we noticed a problem in the current ROS2 implementation.


The Problem


In ROS/ROS2 image_transport plugins declare parameters which control internal mechanisms of (de)compression. Think of bit-rate, format, compression level and alike.


In ROS1 this is supported by dynamic_reconfigure as defined in image_transport 4.1.2 Parameters documentation. Each transport plugin parameter lives in

 <base topic>/<transport name>/<parameter name>

for example

 /camera/image/compressed/jpeg_quality

What we encountered in ROS2 were plugins declaring parameters in

 <base topic>.<parameter name>

for example

 camera.image.jpeg_quality

Some of the difference here stems from different representation of ROS1/ROS2 parameter paths. The real problem is not scoping parameters under transport name like compressed.


The end of the world


Consider two transports, declaring some_parameter. With the existing implementation both declare parameter as say

camera.image.some_parameter

... and KABOOOM!


The lucky ones would crash from

rclcpp::exceptions::ParameterAlreadyDeclaredException

The less fortunate may suffer from side effects of clashing parameters with different defaults, data type or meaning.


The clash might also happen between the transport and camera driver if it declares parameter on image level.


We originally reported the problem to ROS community here.


The HeadachE


The fix would be a three-liner...


... if it wasn't for the fact that ROS2 has been in development for 8 years now.


There are thousands of software packages and people depending on broken behavior.


Taking responsibility means the hard way - supporting the correct parameters, deprecating old ones, emitting warnings and supporting both in transition period.


That is something a lot more complex.


The Fix


We supplied the fix in a series of pull requests, namely:

While doing that we also made all parameters runtime reconfigurable (were only for compressed publisher) and reintroduced theora parameters for ROS2.


The fixes were released in ROS2 Iron. See the compressed, compressedDepth and theora changelogs for some details.


We would like to thank ROS2 image_transport_plugins maintainer Kenji Brameld for working with us to get this fixed.


What's Next


The gory details of ROS2 image_transport parameters are complex. If every plugin solves it independently we are asking for trouble. We believe that in the future core support and guidelines should be pushed up to image_transport and not solved by individual plugins.


Extend Robotics is happy and proud to be part of worldwide robotics community!


Let's shellebrate!

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