[Playerstage-developers] GearBox: a new approach to making robot software reusable


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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