How to Visualize ROS Mesh Markers

Loading mesh resources inside Foxglove Studio’s 3D panel

Esther Weon 4 min read
Published

Since v0.21, Foxglove Studio has supported loading mesh resource markers in the 3D panel. This means that you can now visualize custom models in the context of your 3D scene, alongside the other players and perceived objects present in your robot's world.

So how can you start loading 3D models into your scene?

Write a Python publisher

First, you’ll need to publish a marker topic, following the message definition outlined in ROS 1’s visualization_msgs/Marker or ROS 2’s visualization_msgs/msg/Marker. In both schemas, you'll notice a mesh_resource field, where you can specify the file containing your 3D model. Studio currently supports reading an HTTP, HTTPS, or ROS package URL from this field to load glTF (.glb), COLLADA (.dae), and STL (.stl) files.

On a computer with a working ROS setup, create a Python file (e.g. mesh_marker.py) containing a simple publisher that outputs marker messages with a currently empty mesh_resource field:

#! /usr/bin/env python

import rospy
from visualization_msgs.msg import Marker

rospy.init_node('mesh_marker')

marker_pub = rospy.Publisher("/avocado", Marker, queue_size = 2)

marker = Marker()

marker.header.frame_id = "base_link"
marker.header.stamp = rospy.Time.now()
marker.ns = ""

# Shape (mesh resource type - 10)
marker.type = 10
marker.id = 0
marker.action = 0

# Note: Must set mesh_resource to a valid URL for a model to appear
marker.mesh_resource = ""
marker.mesh_use_embedded_materials = true

# Scale
marker.scale.x = 10.0
marker.scale.y = 10.0
marker.scale.z = 10.0

# Color
marker.color.r = 0.0
marker.color.g = 0.0
marker.color.b = 0.0
marker.color.a = 1.0

# Pose
marker.pose.position.x = 3
marker.pose.position.y = 0
marker.pose.position.z = 0
marker.pose.orientation.x = 0.0
marker.pose.orientation.y = 0.0
marker.pose.orientation.z = 0.0
marker.pose.orientation.w = 1.0

while not rospy.is_shutdown():
  marker_pub.publish(marker)
  rospy.rostime.wallsleep(1.0)

Now that we've written our publisher, let's try loading a few different types of mesh resources in Foxglove Studio's 3D panel!

Load a glTF (.glb) file with an HTTPS URL

Let's load a glTF file in our published marker's mesh_resource field. In your mesh_marker.py file, replace the empty field value with the following URL:

marker.mesh_resource = "https://storage.googleapis.com/foxglove-public-assets/Avocado.glb"

Run the following command in your terminal to start publishing marker messages on the /avocado topic:

python3 mesh_marker.py

To verify that your newly published messages include a link to the .glb file, inspect the /avocado topic in a Raw Messages panel in Foxglove Studio. If everything is working as expected, you’ll see that the mesh_resource field points to an HTTPS URL for a glTF asset.

Topic in Foxglove Studio's Raw Messages panel

Next, add a 3D panel to your layout to see the mesh marker in 3D space. Open the topic picker to toggle on your mesh marker topic (/avocado). You’ll see a 3D avocado appear floating in the scene.

Avocado mesh marker in Foxglove Studio's 3D panel

To see this working immediately, you can also drag and drop this meshmarkers.bag into Foxglove Studio to see the same results.

Load a COLLADA (.dae) file with an HTTPS URL

Now, let’s try loading a different mesh resource. Replace the mesh_resource field value to point to an HTTPS URL for a COLLADA (.dae) asset:

marker.mesh_resource = "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/gundam-global-challenge/gundam_robot/master/gundam_rx78_description/meshes/rx78_object_005-lib.dae"

In your 3D panel, you should now see a Gundam robot part where your avocado used to be:

Gundam robot part in Foxglove Studio's 3D panel

Load an STL (.stl) file with a ROS package URL

Finally, let’s try a link to a file included in a ROS package.

First, install the turtlebot3_description ROS package on your machine. If you are using ROS Noetic, run the following command in your terminal:

$ sudo apt install ros-noetic-turtlebot3-description

Source your ROS setup file, then grab the correct package path:

$ source /opt/ros/noetic/setup.zsh

$ echo $ROS_PACKAGE_PATH
/opt/ros/noetic/share

Next, open the Preferences sidebar in Foxglove Studio to set your ROS_PACKAGE_PATH environment variable to your package path (e.g. /opt/ros/noetic/share). This makes it so that all ROS package:// URLs referenced in the app will now use your ROS_PACKAGE_PATH to find the relevant package assets (e.g. /opt/ros/noetic/share/turtlebot3_description). Note that this will work only on the desktop app, as we are referencing files in our local file system.

Finally, replace the same line of code in your mesh_marker.py file with the following:

marker.mesh_resource = "package://turtlebot3_description/meshes/bases/burger_base.stl"

If your ROS_PACKAGE_PATH was set to /opt/ros/noetic/share, the mesh_resource above will look in /opt/ros/noetic/share/turtlebot3_description/meshes/bases/burger_base.stl for the file in question.

The STL file in question contains the following model:

Turtlebot base

You should now see it displayed in your 3D panel.

Show us what you’ve got!

We hope this new feature helps you build ever-richer representations of the world your robots navigate, to better analyze their behavior and improve their performance. If you would like more file formats (beyond .glb, .dae, .stl) to be supported in the future, please let us know! You can open a GitHub issue or message us directly in our Slack community.

This was a long-anticipated feature, so we’re excited to see what your Foxglove Studio dashboards look like now! Share images of your models in our Slack community’s #lounge channel or on Twitter (don't forget to tag us @foxglovedev). We’re so excited to see the workflows that this feature unlocks for your team.


Read more:

Foxglove raises $3.7M to build better developer tools for robotics
article
studio
data platform
Foxglove raises $3.7M to build better developer tools for robotics

Bringing robotics data management, visualization, & debugging into the 21st century.

Adrian Macneil

Adrian Macneil

3 min read
Using Protobuf data with the Foxglove WebSocket connection
tutorial
studio
Using Protobuf data with the Foxglove WebSocket connection

Write a simple WebSocket server that loads Protobuf data into Foxglove Studio.

Jacob Bandes-Storch

Jacob Bandes-Storch

8 min read

Get blog posts sent directly to your inbox.

Ready to get started?Download today on Linux, Windows, or macOS.