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In ROS, nodes communicate directly; they do not pass topic data through the ROS core.

The ROS core only acts as a name and parameter lookup service: it has the list of all nodes, the names of the topics they publish, the names of the available services, and the ROS parameters.

If you want to confirm that two nodes are communicating directly, you can run rosnode info on them, to see which TCP sockets they have open, where those sockets are connected, and which topic is using each socket.