It’s always nice to hear yourself talk (not!), especially in situations where you find a video of you online from a previous invited talk that you gave and forgot about. Good think we have services like Youtube!
I’ve had the pleasure to be invited at a fantastic event last year, called Reflections | Projections, a conference organized directly by students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. The presentation is a compendium of robotics and 3D sensing, and was meant to encourage young undergraduate students to seriously think about the coolness factors involved when working on open source, 3D perception, and even robotics.
What’s up with Transylvanians and Open Source software? That’s a question I got to ask myself a few weeks ago, when my good friend and colleague Ioan Sucan told me that his team won the Open Source Software (OSS) World Challenge 2012 with his excellent work on OMPL. This is the very same grand prize award that we won with PCL back in 2011. No obvious surprises here… Ioan is one of the best programmers and scientists I’ve had the pleasure to meet! Yet, I couldn’t help wondering: what’s up with transylvanians and their love for open source software?
How did we come to this? Was there something that we experienced in our childhood that led to loving open source? Was there something in our daily diet back home? What sort of an anomaly are we talking about? These are tough questions to answer without going down a Freudian path ;).
If I’d have to guess the top 3 things that have been influencing us and contributing to all this open source awesomeness, I’d say:
- bacon! (ro: “slănină”). Weird enough, transylvanians are not known to be fat people, and live long and healthy lives (my grandpa died at 91), yet they consume a lot of bacon/pork belly in their lives.
- strong alcohol! (ro: “țuică”, “pălincă”, “rachie”). This crazy 50-60% — sometimes home-made — N-times distilled alcohol seems to be something we’ve grown up with. Oh no, we haven’t started drinking under age, but in any social occasion, or any lunch or dinner with family or friends, our parents are always drinking a shot of this, before eating.
- hay! (ro: “fân”, “capiță”). Whoah - everybody has hay! - you’d seem to say. Yes, but this is no ordinary hay. If you’ll ever visit the true land where vampires come from (not the state of Washington!), you’ll notice that the hay there is “different”. Spending summers in the country side as kids, running around and jumping in and on haystacks, is definitely something we must have associated with freedom (which in my Freudian interpretation must have connected to “open source” later on ;)).
Whether this is true or not, is really irrelevant. All that matters is that we have two amazing open source software communities, PCL (3D processing) and OMPL (motion planning), both trying to push the limits of what can be achievable in their own fields, and both featuring transylvanians!!! Let this be an insipration for all you other transylvanians out there!
To find out more about Ioan, and his amazing work, please visit http://ioan.sucan.ro/.
Springer just published my book on Semantic 3D Object Maps for Everyday Robot Manipulation earlier this year, and it is now available on Amazon. For those interested, the book comprises the results of over 4 years of research and presents some of the original kernels that have led to the creation of the Point Cloud Library (PCL) project.
After a wonderful 1 year of PCL, we looked back and realized that we outgrew our current capabilities of sustaining the community, especially since we married so many different industries and research fields under the same umbrella: robotics, computer vision, mapping/GIS, entertainment, computer graphics, medical, photogrammetry and sensing, and even gaming, etc. We currently have around 400 developers/contributors coming from more than 50 institutions around the world, and many thousands of users. There have been 8 PCL tutorials (RSS, IROS, ICCV, ICRA, CRV, GTC, CVPR), plus other meetups and gatherings, and last year PCL won the first prize at the Open Source Software (OSS) World Challenge. PCL has received financial support from more than 10 companies and government institutes — and the list continues to grow, which have hired over 35 contrators to work on PCL in 2012 alone. Our community has open sourced many algorithms, and has probably helped start a dozen new startups around the world. We always liked to think about ourselves as an “aggregator”, in the sense of we bring people from different communities together that are as eager as we are to write open source software for point cloud perception and visualization. The image below attempts to illustrate this. It’s a real privilege to work with such an amazing and talented group of people.
So back in April we started putting the basis of a new organization, this time a non-profit, that was to be spun out from Willow Garage, with a mission to continue carrying the PCL torch. This organization is called Open Perception.
Our address is the same, but I had to change my job title. The hope is to scale up the activities that we have undertaken in the past 6-9 months, and build better “no PhD required” open source software for 2D/3D perception. In terms of what’s next, be sure to look at both the Open Perception and Point Cloud Library (PCL) web pages, as there’s lots of exciting initiatives to be announced soon. Don’t forget: if you like point clouds and open source, you should probably talk to us.
We’ve been working and having fun big time with PCL lately. The PCL Toyota Code Sprint (TOCS) just started with Alexandru Ichim from EPFL and Maurice Fallon and Hordur Johannsson from MIT leading the work for the next 3 months.
We had a blast at ICCV during our tutorial, as we open sourced and demoed Kinect Fusion (more on that soon), as well as had a lot of interesting discussions with our colleagues from all around the world. I’m curious to see how things evolve in the next 2 years and whether ICCV 2013 will be more 3D centric than 2011 was.
If you’re interested in joining our code sprints, we’re currently accepting applications for the PCL Trimble Code Sprint (TRCS).