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The State of Robotics – April 2020

This article is more than 4 years old.

*Information and resources around robotics during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at the end of this article.*

So, we’ve passed the first quarter of 2020. What have we learned? You don’t need us to tell you that, but robots are still cool As usual, this State of Robotics post discusses work the Ubuntu robotics team has done this past April, and some interesting projects we’ve seen in the community. Unfortunately, we had a total of zero submissions to be included this month, hopefully not a sign of the times. If you are a roboticist reading this or a member of a robotics team working from home, and you have a project using Ubuntu or ROS, get in touch. Especially during times like this, we would love to feature your project in next months post and put your robot on our stage. Just send a brief summary to and let’s talk.

A snappy TurtleBot3

A while ago now the Ubuntu robotics team got its hands on some TurtleBot3 robots. And since we are doing a lot of ROS development with it, we often find ourselves reinstalling it clean. Whether you own one yourself or have simply installed ROS a couple of times, you know the hassle a full installation can be. To address this, we created a snap for the TurtleBot3 which vastly simplifies the installation process while exposing all of the main features this great platform has to offer. You can install the snap right now on your robot and start working right away!

sudo snap install turtlebot3c

Or learn how we did it and do something similar for yourself “How to set up TurtleBot3 in minutes with snaps”.

Bridging the gap with the Ubuntu robotics website

At the beginning of this month, got an update. We made a number of changes and additions to the website to more accurately reflect the work we are doing and where we stand with regards to ROS. There are now three pages; an overview page to discuss Ubuntu and ROS in a commercial setting. A ‘What is ROS?’ page to bring non-roboticist Ubuntu users into the fold. And a community page, where we highlight the ROS community, ROSCon, and robotics pieces we write that we hope will benefit the community. We wrote an article to explain the process in more detail.

The journey to capture the flag

Earlier this year we had plans to build out a capture-the-flag competition with Slippery Rock University, and to make this part of a Security BSides event. The world has changed a lot since then: the university students were all sent home to finish the semester, and the BSides conference was cancelled. However, we’re still working on a competition.

We’re moving to an online version of a robot-arm capture-the-flag competition. There’s a bit more complexity to the buildout–we have to set it up for remote access and secure the monitoring infrastructure, but work is underway. We’re really looking forward to making capture-the-flag, dynamic application, security testing a part of the overall program to make ROS the most secure foundation possible for your robot.

Robohub’s COVID-19 robotics resources

A week or so after our March newsletter Sabine Hauert, President of Robohub, posted a similar but more in depth article which covers how robots are helping during the pandemic. It also goes on to list dozens of resources for learning robotics, how to help in the pandemic using robotics, and sources of information regarding ongoing research. Between this post and the following sections of this blog, you should be able to find something that interests you or to sink your teeth into.

Other COVID-19 robot news

There’s a lot of local news about how robots are making an impact with small businesses, local hospitals and being introduced in new places. Here is just a list of links that we compiled to the ones we found and found interesting. Hopefully, you will find inspiration in one of them and be part of the list next month? Or at least we hope you find them interesting.


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At Canonical we are privileged to have a well-established pattern of remote work and have been glad to help others by sharing our experience of distributed collaboration and operations. Our official commercial stance is please lean on us, we stand ready to help. And for the community, for projects and initiatives we can lend our help to, the same message applies. So if you have a project for us to talk about or you know of a project we missed in this article, get in touch through and I’ll get it to the right people. Keep keeping safe in May.

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