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Diffbot ROS Packages

The following describes the easiest way to make use of diffbot's ROS packages inside the ros-mobile-robots/diffbot repository.

The following steps will be performed on both, the workstation/development PC and the single board computer (SBC).

Git: clone diffbot repository

After setting up ROS on your workstation PC and the SBC (either Raspberry Pi 4B or Jetson Nano), create a ros workspace in your users home folder and clone the diffbot repository:

mkdir -p ros_ws/src
git clone

Obtain (system) Dependencies

The diffbot repository relies on two sorts of dependencies:

  • Source (non binary) dependencies from other (git) repositories.
  • System dependencies available in the (ROS) Ubuntu package repositories. Also refered to as pre built binaries.

Source Dependencies

Let's first obtain source dependencies from other repositories. To do this the recommended tool to use is vcstool (see also for additional documentation and examples.).


vcstool replaces wstool.

Inside the cloned diffbot repository, make use of the import command and the diffbot.repos file containing the required source repositories:

vcs import < diffbot.repos

This will clone all repositories which are stored in the diffbot.repos that get passed in via stdin in YAML format.


The file diffbot.repos contains relative paths and will clone the listed repositories in the parent folder from where the vcs import command is called. When it is called from inside the diffbot repository, which should be located in the src folder of a catkin workspace, then the other repositories are also cloned in the src folder.

For the SBC not all dependencies in diffbot.repos are needed. Instead the diffbot_robot.repos is here to clone the rplidar_ros repository.

vcs import < diffbot_robot.repos

Now that additional packages are inside the catkin workspace it is time to install the system dependencies.

System Dependencies

All the needed ROS system dependencies which are required by diffbot's packages can be installed using rosdep command, which was installed during the ROS setup. To install all system dependencies use the following command:

rosdep install --from-paths src --ignore-src -r -y


On the following packages pages it is explained that the dependencies of a ROS package are defined inside its package.xml.

After the installation of all dependencies finished (which can take a while), it is time to build the catkin workspace. Inside the workspace use catkin-tools to build the packages inside the src folder.


The first time you run the following command, make sure to execute it inside your catkin workspace and not the src directory.

catkin build

Now source the catkin workspace either using the created alias or the full command for the bash shell:

source devel/setup.bash


Now you are ready to follow the examples listed in the readme.


TODO extend documentation with examples

Optional Infos

Manual Dependency Installation

To install a package from source clone (using git) or download the source files from where they are located (commonly hosted on GitHub) into the src folder of a ros catkin workspace and execute the catkin build command. Also make sure to source the workspace after building new packages with source devel/setup.bash.

cd /homw/fjp/git/diffbot/ros/  # Navigate to the workspace
catkin build              # Build all the packages in the workspace
ls build                  # Show the resulting build space
ls devel                  # Show the resulting devel space


Make sure to clone/download the source files suitable for the ROS distribtion you are using. If the sources are not available for the distribution you are working with, it is worth to try building anyway. Chances are that the package you want to use is suitable for multiple ROS distros. For example if a package states in its docs, that it is only available for kinetic it is possible that it will work with a ROS noetic install.