Coordinate Tranforms using TF

In this exercise, we will explore the terminal and C++ commands used with TF, the transform library.


It’s hard to imagine a useful, physical “robot” that doesn’t move itself or watch something else move. A useful application in ROS will inevitably have some component that needs to monitor the position of a part, robot link, or tool. In ROS, the “eco-system” and library that facilitates this is called TF. TF is a fundamental tool that allows for the lookup the transformation between any connected frames, even back through time. It allows you to ask questions like: “What was the transform between A and B 10 seconds ago.” That’s useful stuff.

Reference Example

ROS TF Listener Tutorial

Further Information and Resources

Scan-N-Plan Application: Problem Statement

The part pose information returned by our (simulated) camera is given in the optical reference frame of the camera itself. For the robot to do something with this data, we need to transform the data into the robot’s reference frame.

Specifically, edit the service callback inside the vision_node to transform the last known part pose from camera_frame to the service call’s base_frame request field.

Scan-N-Plan Application: Guidance

  1. Specify tf as a dependency of your core package.

    • Edit package.xml (1 line) and CMakeLists.txt (2 lines) as in previous exercises
  2. Add a tf::TransformListener object to the vision node (as a class member variable).

    #include <tf/transform_listener.h>
    tf::TransformListener listener_;
  3. Add code to the existing localizePart method to convert the reported target pose from its reference frame (“camera_frame”) to the service-request frame:

    1. For better or worse, ROS uses lots of different math libraries. You’ll need to transform the over-the-wire format of geometry_msgs::Pose into a tf::Transform object:

      tf::Transform cam_to_target;
      tf::poseMsgToTF(p->pose.pose, cam_to_target);
    2. Use the listener object to lookup the latest transform between the request.base_frame and the reference frame from the ARMarker message (which should be “camera_frame”):

      tf::StampedTransform req_to_cam;
      listener_.lookupTransform(req.base_frame, p->header.frame_id, ros::Time(0), req_to_cam);
    3. Using the above information, transform the object pose into the target frame.

      tf::Transform req_to_target;
      req_to_target = req_to_cam * cam_to_target;
    4. Return the transformed pose in the service response.

      tf::poseTFToMsg(req_to_target, res.pose);
  4. Run the nodes to test the transforms:

    catkin build
    roslaunch myworkcell_support urdf.launch
    roslaunch myworkcell_support workcell.launch
  5. Change the “base_frame” parameter in workcell.launch (e.g. to “table”), relaunch the workcell.launch file, and note the different pose result. Change the “base_frame” parameter back to “world” when you’re done.