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Open-Source Robotics Software

Our open-source robotics project is just getting started.
Watch this site for news about the RP1 robot simulator and other free robotics software.

James Y. Wilson's C/C++ API for the RP1 mobile robot simulator
Is now available at our downloads page. (see Rossum, Rev 0.50,

Why The Rossum Project Exists

Building a robot isn't easy. Robotics presents a challenging intersection of hardware and software. It reaches across disciplines including: Mechanical Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Electronics, and Computer Programming. Better hardware has made the job less difficult, but the software hasn't followed suit. There is a serious lack of reliable, ready-to-use software components for the robot developer.

The Rossum Project is an attempt to help.

Our goal is to collect, develop, and distribute software for for robotics applications. Over the last few years, open-source and free software initiatives have given computer users a remarkable collection of tools and capabilities. We hope to extend the same kind collaboration to the development of robotic software. To do so, we need your help...

Link to Robot Localization Report   Working Together

This site is a place where developers can share software and exchange ideas. With your participation, it will grow into a resource where developers can download reliable, highly capable modules to incorporate into their robots. Visit our Project Management Page for user forums, project membership, and other information.

The first major software release for The Project, a 2-D robot simultor known as Rossum's Playhouse (RP1), is now available. The Rossum Project is actively seeking developers to help with the simulator, and is also seeking other open-source software and information.

Do you have something that other robot enthusiasts can use? If so, post a note on the User Forums or contact You can also read more about the Rossum Project and the RP1 Simulator in The Project's Frequently Asked Questions document.

An extensively modified Rug Warrior provides the base for this robot built by Vassilis Varveropoulos.

Can Robots Really Share Code?

We see two general opportunities for robot developers to benefit by sharing code: development tools and portable software components.

A good example of development tools is the MotionApplet. One of our contributors wrote MotionApplet to explore the behavior of a robot locomotor system and illustrate the effect of different parameters on its behavior. The Rossum Project is very much interested in obtaining analysis tools that help users create and deploy working robots.

Block Diagram of Software Modules

The second opportunity for the sharing of code is software components. The drawing above illustrates our concept for building code that can be ported between platforms. While each system presents unique problems -- that can be answered only through custom implementations -- many functions are common to all robots. Navigation, interpreting sensor data, exploring an environment... Things that every robot does don't have to be re-coded for every new implementation. The plug-in modules shown in the figure work in concert with custom code to operate a working system. By sharing and re-using substantial chunks of code, we can shorten the development cycle for robot software while improving the robustness and reliability of the finished product.

Why a Simulator?

It's no accident that the first module written for the Rossum Project was the RP1 robot simulator. It has an important role to play in this open-source robotics software project. One of the things that makes it so hard to write software for robots is that there is no common platform. Robots are very specialized devices and no two systems are alike. You can download robot software from the web, but you can't download the robot to run it. So when you find a software module that you might want to run in your system, how to you know what it really does?

The RP1 simulator gives you an opportunity to find out. First, it provides a way to "bench test" software on a PC or other computer before you move it to the more demanding world of an actual robot. Second, it provides a way for software developers to demonstrate their components. When you download a module that can run on the simulator, you have a pretty good idea how it operates, what it does, and of whether it will meet your needs. You will have seen the the thing actually work. So the software you download will be more than just an abstract segment of code. It will be a well-characterized module which can be integrated or adapted for your own system.

Source Forge Offers its Help

Until recently, the effort to turn The Rossum Project into a truly collaborative effort was hampered by a lack of support facilities such as User and Developer Forums, ftp access, bug tracking, and version control. All of these can now be found under the
Rossum Project Management Page thanks to the generosity of Source Forge. Logo
Source Forge is a web hosting service dedicated to the advancement of open source software. They provide an impressive set of tools and resources for free software projects. Perhaps the most important of these are the User Forums and mailing lists. Now, at last, we have a place for conversation. Forums provide developers and users the opportunity to swap ideas, to coordinate our efforts, and establish direction for the future of the project. With the move to Source Forge, we hope the Rossum Project can look forward to vigorous new growth.


Questions? Comments? Write to the author
or post a notice at The Rossum Project's User Forums.

Our special thanks to Mike Santos for his wonderful logo.

Copyright (C) 1999 by G.W. Lucas.
All rights reserved except as otherwise marked.

Logo copyright (C) 2000 by Mike Santos. Used with permission.

Robot image copyright (C) 2000 by Vassilis Varveropoulos. Used with permission.

Trinity Fire-Fightning Home Robot Contest Design Copyright (C) 1998 by Trinity College.
Used with permission.