ROSCon JP 2019 report
The second officially licensed Japanese ROSCon event, ROSCon JP 2019, was held in Tokyo, Japan on the 25th of September. ROSCon JP 2019 was, like last year, held in conjunction with the Open Source Robotics Foundation.
We sold over 210 tickets, and had 204 participants on the day (excluding sponsors’ invitations and staff), a small growth over last year. The livestream again had a steady 60 to 70 people watching at any one time. Thanks to all the participants, our sponsors and their staff, and most of all the excellent event staff who made sure things Just HappenedTM, ROSCon JP was an excellent event for all. Presentation slides and videos will be published on the website in a few weeks.
Everything at the event, including the invited talks, the submitted talks, the lightning talks, and the exhibitors’ booths, was of even higher quality than last year and showed a level of committment from the local ROS community and sponsors that we can only say makes us, as organisers, very happy to be a part of this community. We consider the event to have been a massive success, building on the success of our first event last year, and feel that the Japanese ROS community has now established a solid foundation on which to grow the event to provide an enjoyable venue for the ever-growing community to come together.
ROS 2 tutorial
This year we tried a new addition to the programme, and gave a full-day tutorial on ROS 2 and navigation2 for 51 participants. The morning was taken up by learning the basics of ROS 2, including how to write nodes and use topics, services and actions. In the afternoon, @youtalk gave a marathon 3-hour lesson on setting up navigation2 from scratch on a real robot, building a map using Cartographer, and then navigating around in it.
The response to the tutorial was good, and I think the participants all enjoyed the chance to learn about ROS 2 before diving into the community head first on the main conference day. In our follow-up survey, which had 33 responses, every respondee said they would consider participating again.
The first invited talk was given by Ryan Gariepy of Clearpath Robotics/Otto Motors. Rather than being specific to ROS, Ryan discussed why safety is important for all those robot products that are being produced now that ROS has Solved All Our Problems, and gave tips on where to start. The content of the talk was probably unexpected by the majority of the audience, but the feedback was positve and it was clear that they all were happy to have heard the talk.
The second invited talk was given by Louise Poubel of Open Robotics. She talked about Gazebo and Ignition, giving some information on where Gazebo came from and where Ignition is going. With the default simulator for ROS going through a transition to greater power (and greater responsibility?), this talk was timely for the audience. And, as usual for a member of the Gazebo team, the talk was given in Gazebo, which apparently was a new thing for most of our participants! There was an audible response from the audience when the first slide turned out not to be a slide.
Although we provided real time translation from English to Japanese for the participants, Louise gave her entire talk in Japanese.
Submitted talks and lightning talks
ROSCon JP 2019, in keeping with the ROSCon method, established a programme committee and made a public call for submissions. This year we received 23 submissions, a slight drop over last year, but fortunately most were of high quality.
After review by the programme committee, 13 presentations were selected and given presentation slots ranging from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. (One presentation unfortunately had to drop out.) The presentations were selected covered a broad range of ROS-related topics, such as
- using Alpine Linux to rapidly deploy ROS-based software to in-production robots with minimum dependencies;
- how ispace is using Gazebo to assist with designing its moon rover (due for launch soon!);
- the combination of machine learning and Matlab’s ROS support to provide higher-quality highly-functional robot software; and
- two talks on how to do hard real time with ROS 2.
On the other hand, the lightning talks session was full this year, unlike last year where we struggled to get participants. Most likely, having seen last year what it is about, a lot more people wanted to do one this year. The hour was fun for all and every presenter was very enthusiastic. We even had a live demo of a ROS-controlled tiny-scale quadcopter, done perfectly in just a minute and a half!
To help cover the cost of holding a conference in central Tokyo, where meeting space is at a premium, the organising committee invited sponsors. To our amazement, we sold out of exhibition space and had three companies waitlisted to sponsor!
As with ROSCon, sponsors were provided with dedicated exhibition space in a separate room from the presentations. This allowed them to give lively demonstrations and hold discussions with participants throughout the day. The exhibition hall was well-attended, with participants talking to exhibitors even during the invited talks.
ROSCon JP 2019 was sponsored by the following companies and organisations:
Gold: Analog Devices, The Autoware Foundation, eSOL, iSiD, Rapyuta Robotics, Renesas, Seqsense, Tier IV, Ubuntu
Silver: Acutronic Robotics, ADLink, Argo, Concurrent Real-Time, Mamezo, Robotis, SoftBank, Whill
Bronze: AVNet, Fixstars, RT Corporation, TechMagic, TokyoRobotics, Vstone
To encourage networking between participants, ROSCon JP provided both a catered lunch and a catered reception. Attendees were able to enjoy a good meal without leaving the conference venue, giving them more time to mix with each other and attend the exhibitors’ booths.
The reception in particular was well-attended, even by those who had to travel several hours to get home that night. Once again we were forced to drive people out of the reception when the hotel wanted their room back!
A survey of participants at the conclusion of the conference received 109 replies. Here are some select results:
- 56% of respondents were engineers at companies. A further 22% were in commercial R&D and 6% in business.
- Just 15% of respondents were on the academic side, with the vast majority of those being students. This shows again that there is a strong commercial interest in ROS in Japan.
- 94% of respondents rated the quality of the sessions as high or very high, an improvement over last year. Just 2 people rated them as below average (again).
- By far the majority of participants considered the sessions just right in length and number.
- 100% of respondents stated they intend to participate if ROSCon JP is held again. Out of this, 70% were unconditional (i.e. not based on schedule or content).
- 28% of respondents expressed a desire to present at the next ROSCon JP. A further 41% stated they would present a lightning talk.
Building on the 2019 event, ROSCon JP 2019 was a huge success. We saw many repeat visitors, and the buzz around the event beforehand showed us that people were genuinely excited about attending. The event seems likely to continue next year!