ROSCon 2019 – Canonical

Rhys Davies

on 5 November 2019

What an exhausting, yet intriguing few days. Huge thanks to Open Robotics et. al. for hosting and setting it up. The fantastic community came in full force with far more people than last year, more people than ROSCon JP and more people than I would have ever guessed. Which is to say, there were more friends to make

This blog won’t cover everything that happened at ROSCon or cover any of the talks presented. This blog is for recap purposes, for anyone who couldn’t make it or for someone unsure whether or not they should come to the next one. If you were there, you know how it all went, and if you weren’t, then a paragraph wouldn’t do the talks justice anyway. If you want information about the talks or presentations head over to the official ROSCon 2019 site or our announcement post and see what you can find. For now though, let’s discuss.

My My My Macau

Surely everyone in attendance could agree Macau is frankly, a ridiculous place. On the one hand, the event was in Conrad, Cotai central, neatly tucked away on the fourth floor of the Sheraton. On the other hand, it was connected to every single other hotel in the area. Each of these tremendously large skyscraping hotels was connected, via bridges or walkways to allow easy movement for miles to and from the venue. This did mean little daylight, fresh air or potential to see the outside of buildings. (Unless you went looking) Every person the team spoke to commented on its likeness to Las Vegas. With less alcohol, more cleanliness, less in your face casinos and much less cigarette smoke. If someone went to the whole conference without getting lost, I tip my hat to you.

The Event Floor

Split into five areas the conference was well equipped and well-sized to fit everyone. Once in the right building or on the right floor, finding the venue was as easy as following the ROSCon logo to the reception. At the reception sat the ever-patient reception team who kitted folks out with their first round of merch. Opposite the reception desk from right to left you had two rooms for talks, a hall for lunch and the exhibition hall. It was all nicely set up to accommodate everyone and provide a relaxed atmosphere. Of course between and around all of these areas were break tables, coffee machines, pull up exhibition signs and jigsaw puzzles. Yep, surprisingly hard ROS logo jigsaw puzzles. How many roboticists does it take to solve a jigsaw puzzle? At the time of writing this section, six.

The Exhibition Hall

There was something close to a hundred meters of booths and robotics and folks talking about robots. It was pretty cool. In and around the breaks, attendees could wander around the exhibit hall and interact with various companies and organisations who work with ROS. The vast majority of the people walking around, it seems, were impressively knowledgeable. The scene typically went like this; people walked up to a booth, watched a slide show or demo, searched around for stickers or a t-shirt and asked an insightful question about their work, ROS or ROS2. Most frequently, perhaps “Where do you think things are going with ROS2?” It seems most folks have ROS2 in the back of their mind but don’t want to join that train just yet. Not until they know they’re not alone at least.

For Canonical, it was a chance to interact with users, get feedback and find out how we can better serve out users. Something that stood out in this regard, even from the extremely knowledgeable audience, was the lack of comprehensive knowledge about snaps. “I’ve used snaps, but I don’t really know anything about them”, “Aren’t they the same as docker?” or “No, what’s a snap?” came up the most. Fortunately, the Ubuntu team had devised a cunning demo to explain and exhibit the key benefits of snaps. This wonderful little video should give the gist. But expect a blog on snaps coming soon to a browser near you.

 The Present Presentations

The talks are what I suspect everyone really came for – insightful, I know. Day 0 kicked off with a selection of four different workshops. Officially almost 300 people attended them on this first day. Though from speaking to other attendees who missed day 0 they might very well have seen more folks on day 0 had it not been called day 0. People missed out from not being aware and from miscalculating the time differences. The workshops were instructive and informative. The Ubuntu robotics team was not able to attend each one, but the all-round feedback from each workshop was excellent.

Day one and day two both began with a keynote and a one-track series of talks for all. But because of the number of speakers, after lunch, the talks split into two tracks. Covering simulations and applications, deployment and navigation, manipulation and performance and then multidisciplinary work or development. Each talk had its merit. While they varied in production quality and overall clarity, they were all insightful. The Open Robotics Foundation can surely pick-em. They ranged from 3-minute lightning talks to a one-hour presentation of focused learning. Each and everyone was recorded and talked and tweeted about on the days. Follow the Open Robotics Foundation (@OpenRobotics) on twitter for more information and likely for when the recordings will be available.

Ubuntu in The Wild

To my new hire hearts’ pleasure, most everyone at the con was using Ubuntu. It did not come as much of a shock since the default Linux distribution for running ROS is Ubuntu. But it was really lovely to see. The exhibition floor was lined with beavers, dingoes, xerus and the odd ermine too. At a guess, 70% of the computers were running Ubuntu, from Amazon to The Construct. A few were even running Ubuntu Core images on their devices or SoCs. The team took a few photos of and with these devices running Ubuntu in the wild and put them on twitter. To have a look search the hashtag #Ubuntuinthewild

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