Ecole des mines de Douai – (2012/2014)


Ecole des mines de Douai is my very first experience far from home, and, like every good experience far from home, it becomes a new home.

The amount of achievements i meet in this place is amazing, and the achievements i am going to meet because of time here is even more amazing.

My job in this place was a fixed length contract as Ingénieur de recherche, or research engineer.

The project i was in charge is called RoboShop. It is basically a robot guide for indoor scenarios.  Our specific scenario: shopping. The main requirement then was a differential drive robot moving inside a crowded shopping, leading costumers to do their shops, looking for best paths, avoiding to collide and of course, exposing a responsive and user friendly interface.

Since the project had several money contributors, there where also other requirements, by example, there should be also as outline a framework for implementing ROS (Robot Operative System)  nodes in Pharo smalltalk, well documented, and oriented to be used to learn robotics.

And, as if that is not enough, we had to keep publishing the evolution of the work in the team blog.

There was also, like in all engineering jobs, deadlines.

There were an amazing amount of challenges in the way.  Even when i had already some  experience working controlling hardware, a whole robot was something completely new. In addition to that, knowing that almost the software i needed to integrate, and to develop on top still being state of the art, running in an organic distributed architecture based on subscriber/publisher architectural pattern, without real testing methods, working with four languages (pharo smalltalk, c++, python and java) for the robot side, developing or enhancing drivers, learning some advanced maths,  and merging all my new knowledge in a high level application framework; And with two (pharo, javascript, html5/css are not languages) others for a GUI that has real physical impact.

The result of this was:

PhaROS ( Pharo framework for robotics in ROS), and it related Jenkins site.

PhaROS Deployer ( A whole 3rd application that automatise the infrastructure work related with ROS, as generating makefiles, deploying types, generating scripts, etc), that you can checkout here and look for documentation here

MiddlewareDeployer – A Whole framework for deploying Pharo/Squeak based projects into any kind of middleware, on which is based the PhaROSDeployer tool and that you can checkout here

TaskIT  Announced here, An enterprise-ready framework for serious multiprocessing in Pharo smalltalk, with it documentation, which is part of the Pharo for enterprise book.

XSens Bus ROSCPP driver – XSens is an accelerometer  widely known. Sadly all the implementations i found did not support Bus XSens, which is a solution for composing accelerometers (to be able to measure, by example, an arm, you need at least 3 accelerometers)

Arduino sensor/actuator controllers  – Arduino has a set of sensors and actuators that come with the beginner kit. We built an driver function for each of this sensor/actuator that you can use as a library in your Arduino code and connect with ROS. For each of this Arduino based controllers, that connect to ROS trough ROSSerial package  i built a PhaROS Nodelet ( kind of reusable object interface )  that give you full and coherent control of each of  this components.

StarGazer Linux driver – StarGazer is device that provides a highly accurate way to locate something in an indoor scenario.

The RoboShop project, which source still private, so i cannot point it here.

Finally, in what is to documentation, the team is making editorial work in order to publish the deployment design as a technical report and the PhaROS by example text as a book.  Sadly, meanwhile that is not done, the content of both is confidential.

What is already published and i can show to you is the team blog, some videos related with the PhaROS / RoboShop project


The video and slides of FOSDEM 2014, where i presented PhaROS.

Presentation Video (Courtesy of FOSDEM organisers)
And finally, the slides from the  project presentation in ESUG 2013



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