RoboComp Logo

A simple robotics framework.

Is there nothing other than Plugins?

Gazebo provides a very simple way to export its resources, which are plugins, so we may ask why we need to know about any other things. Plugins are awesome and very handy, which makes it very easy for users to connect to the simulator. But there are other ways besides plugins which, we are pretty cool and provides a deeper understanding about the gazebo’s apis, utilities and also can make our applications more flexible.

So to know about the way in which gazebo gains access to anything inside the simulator, we have to look at the things that happen at startup. Gazebo uses SDFormat library to parse the .sdf through which gazebo gains all the information about its element. Below is a brief explanation how sdformat does it.

const std::string sdfPath(argv[1]);

// load and check sdf file
sdf::SDFPtr sdfElement(new sdf::SDF());
if (!sdf::readFile(sdfPath, sdfElement))
  std::cerr << sdfPath << " is not a valid SDF file!" << std::endl;
  return -2;

The path of the sdf file is passed as an argument, which is then parsed by the sdf format library to create access through sdfElement to all the sdf elements.

// start parsing model
const sdf::ElementPtr rootElement = sdfElement->Root();
if (!rootElement->HasElement("model"))
  std::cerr << sdfPath << " is not a model SDF file!" << std::endl;
  return -3;
const sdf::ElementPtr modelElement = rootElement->GetElement("model");
const std::string modelName = modelElement->Get<std::string>("name");
std::cout << "Found " << modelName << " model!" << std::endl;

After the sdf file is parsed, we get an element pointer,rootElement, which gives access to all the information about that model. The rootElement can be used to get access to any property of the model now. We can get names, size, lenght, etc. about the model.

// parse model links
sdf::ElementPtr linkElement = modelElement->GetElement("link");
while (linkElement)
  const std::string linkName = linkElement->Get<std::string>("name");
  std::cout << "Found " << linkName << " link in "
            << modelName << " model!" << std::endl;
  linkElement = linkElement->GetNextElement("link");

We get pointers to all the different component with which the model is made of. We get links, joints, etc.

// parse model joints
sdf::ElementPtr jointElement = modelElement->GetElement("joint");
while (jointElement)
  const std::string jointName = jointElement->Get<std::string>("name");
  std::cout << "Found " << jointName << " joint in "
            << modelName << " model!" << std::endl;

  const sdf::ElementPtr parentElement = jointElement->GetElement("parent");
  const std::string parentLinkName = parentElement->Get<std::string>();

  const sdf::ElementPtr childElement = jointElement->GetElement("child");
  const std::string childLinkName = childElement->Get<std::string>();

  std::cout << "Joint " << jointName << " connects " << parentLinkName
            << " link to " << childLinkName << " link" << std::endl;

  jointElement = jointElement->GetNextElement("joint");

This way gazebo actually do things at the startup. Creates a pointer and use the sdf element ptr from the sdf file to get all the information about the world and then use the physics engine to populate and intiate the world. We don’t need to use it, because the gazebo does it automatically at the startup, but it doesn’t hurt us to know sommething new, things that go beyond the scene.

sdf::ElementPtr worldElem = _elem->GetElement("world");
physics::WorldPtr world = physics::create_world();
physics::load_world(world, worldElem);
public: ModelPtr ModelByName(const std::string &_name) const;

Like in the above code snippet we saw how we got the pointer to model by name, we can also get it for world. Gazebo library provides APIs for this. We can create a pointer to the world and then pass the sdf element ptr in the load_world function to load with the given characteristic in the sdf file. This happens automatically at the startup in gazebo when we pass an argument to the gazebo. Next we can get pointer to the Model by the ModelByName method, through we control all the properties inside a simulator. So, mow we know that we don’t necessarily need a plugin after all to control a model.

JointControllerPtr GetJointController ();
const Joint_V & GetJoints () const;
const WorldPtr & GetWorld ();
LinkPtr GetLink (const std::string &_name="canonical") const;
const WorldPtr & GetWorld () const;

When we have got the Model pointer we can get access to anything within a model like joints, links, etc. We can also get WorldPtr from the ModelPtr by using GetWorld method.

Sensors are little tougher to get and access. It is not like world, model or link. It is an entity not a physical thing in gazebo, so, it is generally put by gazebo itself in the simulator. There is only object at first, and to get different sensors, we can just change the type. Gazebo basically uses its component to generate a virtual environment. For ex: A camera is attached on a model at a particular position relative to model. So, when we request image, gazebo use that pose to create render the world view from that point of view and show it to the user. It is just like view point which we get on screen when running gazebo. Likewise IMU data can be created just by measuring the accln, velocity and pose of the model, since gazebo has all the information about its elements in the simulation.

Akash Kumar Singh