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Project Announcement

Much of the FOSS efforts in robotics have revolved around building software frameworks. Player, Orocos, Carmen, Orca, and others are all results of these efforts: all looking for a way (the "best" way?) to build a complete robotic system.

Despite all the efforts, the community has not yet come to a conclusion on the best way to design a robot software framework, or even if there is a "best" way (i.e. it probably depends on specific requirements). Whatever decisions you make regarding frameworks, it would be wise to minimise your risk by disassociating your algorithms/drivers as much as possible from framework code. In other words, keep your algorithms/drivers in a form which does not tie it to a particular framework. These ideas are not new and many agree that it makes perfect sense. So what's new?

GearBox is a brand-new project which puts this approach into practice. It is a collection of peer-reviewed independent libraries aiming to provide functional robot software. There is no framework linking the libraries together (although some libraries may depend on others). It doesn't aim to replace any frameworks. Rather, the vision is that the current and future robotic frameworks will compete with each other in how well they can integrate GearBox libraries into complete and diverse robotic systems.

Libraries can be submitted by anyone and are peer-reviewed before being accepted into the collection. They must meet certain criteria, detailed on the website. The review process is conducted on a public mailing list; anyone is welcome to provide comments on submitted libraries. Libraries accepted into GearBox remain the ultimate responsibility of the library developer; we won't try to steal your library from you.

GearBox is still an infant project. It currently only has one accepted library, a Hokuyo URG laser scanner driver based on the urglaser driver from Player (the review of this library is available in the mailing list archives). A SICK laser scanner driver has been submitted by the Orca project for peer review and will be going through the review process shortly. While we have developed a project principles and outlined the project goals, including the submissions process, we are still and always will welcome any comments on improving these.

What GearBox needs now is more libraries. Hardware drivers and software algorithms are both equally welcome. The more libraries GearBox gains, the greater the benefits to the wider robotics community. So check out the project page, and if you have software you think would be beneficial to the robotics community, submit it for review.

The GearBox Developers



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