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Best tablet to run ROS

asked 2013-06-19 14:12:59 -0600

xylo gravatar image

We're thinking of buying a tablet to run a small number of ROS nodes (primarily rviz), to communicate with the ubuntu machine on the robot. I've heard some painful stories about ROS on tablets, so would like to ask if anyone has recommendations on which tablet to get. Are the Android platforms the way to go? Has anyone tried the Ubuntu Tablet? Thanks a lot!

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answered 2013-06-20 08:52:51 -0600

mirzashah gravatar image

updated 2013-06-20 08:57:11 -0600

I've actually been interested in this myself. In it's current state, ROS and Android are not as mature as ROS on Ubuntu Desktop (x86). There is an implementation of the ROS client library and a ROS master in the form of rosjava, but there are no ports of apps like rviz or the ROS nav stack yet for an Android environment. If you rooted your Android device, in theory you could crosscompile and run C++ nodes using roscpp. However it'll likely be a pain as all dependencies that we take for granted in the Ubuntu repositories (e.g. OGRE for rviz) have to be compiled manually. Your app will also not work on a stock Android device. You could also turn your ROS code into C++ libraries and invoke functions from a Java shim via the Android NDK without rooting the device, but that's another world of hurt.

I would recommend instead getting an x86 based tablet with an i3, i5, or i7 processor and intel hd graphics (e.g Acer Iconia W700). Ubuntu's Unity environment has pretty good multitouch support. The power draw is of course going to be more than an ARM-based tablet, but you'll get much higher performance. Be wary of Atom based tablets based on the Atom Z2760 processor. These use Intel's Cloverfield architecture which does not work with Linux due to the use of a proprietary PowerVR video chipset. The next generation of Atom based tablets should support Linux but that likely won't come out till end of this year.

Also, I'm not sure if Ubuntu Tablet would help. To my understanding, it's currently only a Developer's Preview. I'm not sure how much more different their environment is from desktop Ubuntu and if their repositories will be as comprehensive. In the future, it may well be the way to go for ROS development on ARM tablets, but I think it's way too early to consider it.

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Thanks a lot for the recommendations @mirzashah! Have you used Acer Iconia W700 for running ROS?

xylo gravatar imagexylo ( 2013-06-20 09:32:31 -0600 )edit

@xylo I agree to every word of @mirzashah, however it may be worth a try to install ROS barebones on a Ubuntu Tablet. I have heard that Ubuntu is installable on various Android tablets, but have not attempted such.

Arkapravo gravatar imageArkapravo ( 2013-06-20 09:34:20 -0600 )edit

@xylo On rosjava etc, you can find some ROS apps on play.google (i.e. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ros.android.teleop&feature=search_result)

Arkapravo gravatar imageArkapravo ( 2013-06-20 09:35:08 -0600 )edit
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I have not yet tried the w700, but I have seen youtube videos of people running stock ubuntu on it without any need for hacks. The Intel HD 4000 has fully open source drivers -- though not as beefy as nvidia and amd graphics cards, it should be fine for rviz.

mirzashah gravatar imagemirzashah ( 2013-06-20 10:49:08 -0600 )edit

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Asked: 2013-06-19 14:12:59 -0600

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Last updated: Jun 20 '13