Autonomous Systems



  Makarenko, A., Brooks, A. & Kaupp, T.
On the Benefits of Making Robotic Software Frameworks Thin
IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS'07), 2007
Presented at IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS'07), San Diego CA, USA, 29 Oct. - 02 Nov. 2007

Today's reusable robotics software is provided by several
self-contained open-source projects with virtually no software reuse
between them. Such partitioning leads to problems with software
quantity, quality, ease of evaluation and, ultimately, to poor end
user experience. By reviewing several of the projects we observe
that all of them contain a mix of three types of software: 1) driver
and algorithm implementations, 2) communication middleware, and 3)
robotic software framework. We show that more than half of the
combined code base contains software which emph{could} be highly
reusable but only a small fraction of it actually is.

We argue that formal separation of the three groups in the existing
and future software projects would offer several potential
advantages. Availability of framework-independent code would enable
community-wide library-based software reuse in addition to the
existing framework-wide component-based reuse. Another important
benefit is related to evaluation procedures. The three software
types are very different and should be evaluated separately, using
different criteria. The first two types allow quantitative
comparisons which are well documented in the literature. The last
one is largely qualitative and, therefore, more subjective.

Practically, we recommend today's projects to refactor and eject the
driver and algorithm implementation code and focus on the task of
software integration. Thin frameworks can be numerous, increasing
the diversity of options available to robotics practitioners.
Finally, we discuss distribution options for the refactored
framework-independent code including the option of creating a Common
Robotic Project.

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