MoveItCon 2023 Recap
On October 17, 2023, PickNik invited the wider MoveIt Open Source Community and robot enthusiasts to a MoveIt-centered micro-conference at “The Troubadour” hotel in New Orleans. The date was picked just one day before ROSCon 2023, and the venue was located nearby to facilitate the attendance of ROS community members.
The purpose of MoveItCon was to bring MoveIt maintainers, contributors, and users together- people who already interact and collaborate online daily but often without knowing each other personally or even recognizing their faces. The hope was that besides showing off what great things the community has achieved recently, newly built connections might lay the foundation for future collaborations and contributor recruitment.
We were overwhelmed by the interest in this event, as we had to limit registration at the venue’s capacity of 60 seats. Most attendees had a professional background in robotics, ROS, and had worked with or contributed to MoveIt before. However, we were also excited to see several students and engineers fresh in their careers who have just started learning MoveIt and ROS. They all came to learn about the latest developments in MoveIt, and what new projects might be around the corner.
A big chunk of the morning presentations was motivated by PickNik’s work as the lead maintainer of MoveIt. The topics included MoveIt development and community governance, Kinova hardware support, and the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) projects about Python bindings, MoveIt Servo, and IK benchmarking.
We were happy to have Buck Babich present NVIDIA’s work around MoveIt and ROS 2 Control integration with Isaac Sim and the latest Omniverse features. Matthew Hansen from Amazon introduced us to the exciting developments and goals of the Space ROS project, which has just had its first official release for ROS 2 Humble. After a lightning talks session and concluding Q&A, everyone had the chance to recharge over a lunch break with a Louisianan barbecue buffet and cold drinks.
MoveIt Studio Hands-on
The afternoon started with a hands-on workshop to install and try out the latest product version of MoveIt Studio on their own devices. The participants were instructed to test MoveIt Studio’s teleoperation features, objective builder, and waypoint selection, and finally, how they would configure Studio to run with Gazebo simulation. Everyone was invited to start experimenting with the software and to continue their journey after the conference using an extended free trial license.
The workshop was complemented with presentations about MoveIt Studio’s industrial use cases, the space research and development efforts funded by NASA and Motiv, and lastly, how MoveIt Studio’s software architecture, configuration, and deployment infrastructure is designed to augment the developer experience and to help to focus on building robot applications. One of the key takeaways from the afternoon sessions was how tightly coupled PickNik’s Open Source involvement and the MoveIt Studio R&D efforts are and how PickNik is working on shaping MoveIt into a more advanced and specialized tool for production robots in industry and space.
The last session of the conference was a panel discussion with Michael Ferguson, Sebastian Castro, Buck Babich, and Matthew Hansen, debating the role of Open Source Software in robotics, and personal perspectives on the future of the industry in general.
Getting in Touch
After the official part of the conference, everyone was invited to the hotel’s rooftop bar to enjoy fresh cocktails in the evening sun. It was an excellent opportunity to meet the community in person and not only discuss what happened during the day but also learn about everyone’s background and motivation for participating in the first place.
As Michael Ferguson has outlined in his ROSCon 2023 Recap, and Josh Newans showed in his Articulated Robotics YouTube video, MoveIt and the wider ROS community are growing in numbers and use cases, counted by people contributing to Open Source and traveling to present their work in person. The growing number of junior talent is especially exciting to see, and makes us look forward to future GSoC projects (stay tuned for 2024 program announcements) and a possibly even bigger MoveItCon 2024 in Odense, Denmark.