Realtime Servo

MoveIt Servo facilitates realtime control of your robot arm.

MoveIt Servo accepts any of the following types of commands:

  1. Individual joint velocities.

  2. The desired velocity of end effector.

  3. The desired pose of end effector.

This enables teleoperation via a wide range of input schemes, or for other autonomous software to control the robot - in visual servoing or closed loop position control for instance.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, make sure you’ve completed the steps in Getting Started.

Design overview

MoveIt Servo consists of two main parts: The core implementation Servo which provides a C++ interface, and the ServoNode which wraps the C++ interface and provides a ROS interface.The configuration of Servo is done through ROS parameters specified in servo_parameters.yaml

In addition to the servoing capability, MoveIt Servo has some convenient features such as:

  • Checking for singularities

  • Checking for collisions

  • Motion smoothing

  • Joint position and velocity limits enforced

Singularity checking and collision checking are safety features that scale down the velocities when approaching singularities or collisions (self collision or collision with other objects). The collision checking and smoothing are optional features that can be disabled using the check_collisions parameter and the use_smoothing parameters respectively.

The inverse kinematics is handled through either the inverse Jacobain or the robot’s IK solver if one was provided.

Inverse Kinematics in Servo

Inverse Kinematics may be handled internally by MoveIt Servo via inverse Jacobian calculations. However, you may also use an IK plugin. To configure an IK plugin for use in MoveIt Servo, your robot config package must define one in a kinematics.yaml file, such as the one in the Panda config package. Several IK plugins are available within MoveIt, as well as externally. bio_ik/BioIKKinematicsPlugin is the most common choice.

Once your kinematics.yaml file has been populated, include it with the ROS parameters passed to the servo node in your launch file:

moveit_config = (
servo_node = Node(
        moveit_config.robot_description_kinematics, # here is where kinematics plugin parameters are passed

The above excerpt is taken from in MoveIt. In the above example, the kinematics.yaml file is taken from the moveit_resources repository in the workspace, specifically moveit_resources/panda_moveit_config/config/kinematics.yaml. The actual ROS parameter names that get passed by loading the yaml file are of the form robot_description_kinematics.<group_name>.<param_name>, e.g. robot_description_kinematics.panda_arm.kinematics_solver.

Since moveit_servo does not allow undeclared parameters found in the kinematics.yaml file to be set on the Servo node, custom solver parameters need to be declared from inside your plugin code.

For example, bio_ik defines a getROSParam() function in bio_ik/src/kinematics_plugin.cpp that declares parameters if they’re not found on the Servo Node.

Thread Priority

For best performance when controlling hardware you want the main servo loop to have as little jitter as possible. The normal linux kernel is optimized for computational throughput and therefore is not well suited for hardware control. The two easiest kernel options are the Real-time Ubuntu 22.04 LTS Beta or linux-image-rt-amd64 on Debian Bullseye.

If you have a realtime kernel installed, the main thread of ServoNode automatically attempts to configure SCHED_FIFO with a priority of 40. See more documentation at config/servo_parameters.yaml.

Setup on a New Robot

The bare minimum requirements for running MoveIt Servo with your robot include:
  1. A valid URDF and SRDF of the robot.

  2. A controller that can accept joint positions or velocities.

  3. Joint encoders that provide rapid and accurate joint position feedback.

Because the kinematics are handled by the core parts of MoveIt, it is recommended that you have a valid config package for your robot and you can run the demo launch file included with it.

Using the C++ API

This can be beneficial when there is a performance requirement to avoid the overhead of ROS communication infrastucture, or when the output generated by Servo needs to be fed into some other controller that does not have a ROS interface.

When using MoveIt Servo with the C++ interface the three input command types are JointJogCommand, TwistCommand and PoseCommand. The output from Servo when using the C++ interface is KinematicState, a struct containing joint names, positions, velocities and accelerations. As given by the definitions in datatypes header file.

The first step is to create a Servo instance.

// Import the Servo headers.
#include <moveit_servo/servo.hpp>
#include <moveit_servo/utils/common.hpp>

// The node to be used by Servo.
rclcpp::Node::SharedPtr node = std::make_shared<rclcpp::Node>("servo_tutorial");

// Get the Servo parameters.
const std::string param_namespace = "moveit_servo";
const std::shared_ptr<const servo::ParamListener> servo_param_listener =
    std::make_shared<const servo::ParamListener>(node, param_namespace);
const servo::Params servo_params = servo_param_listener->get_params();

// Create the planning scene monitor.
const planning_scene_monitor::PlanningSceneMonitorPtr planning_scene_monitor =
    createPlanningSceneMonitor(node, servo_params);

// Create a Servo instance.
Servo servo = Servo(node, servo_param_listener, planning_scene_monitor);

Using the JointJogCommand

using namespace moveit_servo;

// Create the command.
JointJogCommand command;
command.joint_names = {"panda_link7"};
command.velocities = {0.1};

// Set JointJogCommand as the input type.

// Get the joint states required to follow the command.
// This is generally run in a loop.
KinematicState next_joint_state = servo.getNextJointState(command);

Using the TwistCommand

using namespace moveit_servo;

// Create the command.
TwistCommand command{"panda_link0", {0.1, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0};

// Set the command type.

// Get the joint states required to follow the command.
// This is generally run in a loop.
KinematicState next_joint_state = servo.getNextJointState(command);

Using the PoseCommand

using namespace moveit_servo;

// Create the command.
Eigen::Isometry3d ee_pose = Eigen::Isometry3d::Identity(); // This is a dummy pose.
PoseCommand command{"panda_link0", ee_pose};

// Set the command type.

// Get the joint states required to follow the command.
// This is generally run in a loop.
KinematicState next_joint_state = servo.getNextJointState(command);

The next_joint_state result can then be used for further steps in the control pipeline.

The status of MoveIt Servo resulting from the last command can be obtained by:

StatusCode status = servo.getStatus();

The user can use status for higher-level decision making.

See moveit_servo/demos for complete examples of using the C++ interface. The demos can be launched using the launch files found in moveit_servo/launch.

  • ros2 launch moveit_servo

  • ros2 launch moveit_servo

  • ros2 launch moveit_servo

Using the ROS API

To use MoveIt Servo through the ROS interface, it must be launched as a Node or Component along with the required parameters as seen here.

When using MoveIt Servo with the ROS interface the commands are ROS messages of the following types published to respective topics specified by the Servo parameters.

  1. control_msgs::msg::JointJog on the topic specified by the joint_command_in_topic parameter.

  2. geometry_msgs::msg::TwistStamped on the topic specified by the cartesian_command_in_topic parameter. For now, the twist message must be in the planning frame of the robot. (This will be updated soon.)

  3. geometry_msgs::msg::PoseStamped on the topic specified by the pose_command_in_topic parameter.

Twist and Pose commands require that the header.frame_id is always specified. The output from ServoNode (the ROS interface) can either be trajectory_msgs::msg::JointTrajectory or std_msgs::msg::Float64MultiArray selected using the command_out_type parameter, and published on the topic specified by command_out_topic parameter.

The command type can be selected using the ServoCommandType service, see definition ServoCommandType.

From cli : ros2 service call /<node_name>/switch_command_type moveit_msgs/srv/ServoCommandType "{command_type: 1}"


switch_input_client = node->create_client<moveit_msgs::srv::ServoCommandType>("/<node_name>/switch_command_type");
auto request = std::make_shared<moveit_msgs::srv::ServoCommandType::Request>();
request->command_type = moveit_msgs::srv::ServoCommandType::Request::TWIST;
if (switch_input_client->wait_for_service(std::chrono::seconds(1)))
  auto result = switch_input_client->async_send_request(request);
  if (result.get()->success)
    RCLCPP_INFO_STREAM(node->get_logger(), "Switched to input type: Twist");
    RCLCPP_WARN_STREAM(node->get_logger(), "Could not switch input to: Twist");

Similarly, servoing can be paused using the pause service <node_name>/pause_servo of type std_msgs::srv::SetBool.

When using the ROS interface, the status of Servo is available on the topic /<node_name>/status, see definition ServoStatus.

Launch ROS interface demo: ros2 launch moveit_servo

Once the demo is running, the robot can be teleoperated through the keyboard.

Launch the keyboard demo: ros2 run moveit_servo servo_keyboard_input.

An example of using the pose commands in the context of servoing to open a door can be seen in this example.