Clearpath Robotics, a Kitchener, Canada-based developer of mobile robots for research and development, now supports the Robot Operating System (ROS) on Windows 10. Clearpath’s unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) have always been based on ROS, the open-source platform that provides robotics developers with tools and libraries to help them build complex robots.
But ROS was really only available on linux-based systems until Microsoft announced ROS on Windows in May 2019. Clearpath’s support for ROS on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Windows 10 Desktop starts now with the Jackal UGV. It told The Robot Report support for its other robots will follow.
“In bringing Windows and Azure into the ROS ecosystem, Microsoft has created a set of powerful, supported tools for robotics development,” said Julian Ware, General Manager of Clearpath Robotics. “We have been proud supporters of ROS for over 10 years and we’re very excited to work with Microsoft to help bring this new functionality to the ROS developer community.”
We spoke with Dave Niewinski, a senior software engineer at Clearpath, about adding ROS on Windows 10 support. We will feature the conversation on an upcoming episode of The Robot Report Podcast, which debuts on June 3. Niewinski said there are many benefits to using ROS on Windows 10, but the main two improvements are multi-layered security and cloud computing.
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“Windows allows your robot to be integrated seamlessly into your enterprise security solution, as well as getting regular updates from Microsoft,” he said. “Next is cloud processing. Windows 10 and Azure IOT are meant to work together. You can offload processing from your robot to the cloud or use cloud intelligence on your robot to be able to do live decision making and autonomy.
“Lastly, using Windows on your robot can reduce your development time by letting you use common development apps and tool frames. If you’re used to using ROS on Ubuntu, using Windows is the same user experience. The robot will come with the operating system and ROS pre-installed and setup ready for you to start doing your work.”
Microsoft introduced in the fall of 2018 an experimental release of ROS for Windows 10. But during its 2019 Build conference in Seattle, Microsoft announced its ROS support is no longer an experiment. Microsoft released several updates for ROS on Windows in November 2019, including a Visual Studio Code extension for ROS, Azure VM ROS template support for testing and simulation, an Azure Kinect ROS Driver, and more.
“Clearpath Robotics has been a supporter of ROS on Windows from the day Microsoft announced the proof of concept at ROSCon 2018. With ROS on Windows reaching a critical mass of supported packages, Clearpath is able to offer their solutions to customers who need Windows. Microsoft’s Azure and Windows customers are increasingly looking to autonomous mobile robots to improve efficiency, improve working conditions, maintain business continuity and increase social separation. With this partnership, customers can now use Clearpath’s robotic development platforms with Windows 10 and Azure IoT solutions” said Joe Coco, Partner Group Program Manager at Microsoft.
OTTO Motors, a division of Clearpath Robotics, recently partnered with Boston Dynamics to demo the potential future of logistics automation. The company’s released a video that shows Boston Dynamics’ Handle robot picking boxes and building pallets on top of OTTO’s autonomous mobile robots in a test environment that resembles a distribution center.