Getting started with the Intel RealSense Robotics Development Kit (RDK)

I’m the proud owner of an Intel Robotics Development Kit!  The kit comes with a RealSense R200 3D camera, a UP board with 32GB eMMC, a USB 3 adapter, a 5V 4A power supply, USB3 and connectors. The RealSense consists of an infrared laser projection system, two infrared cameras and a full HD colour camera.

After unboxing it, and looking at the 3 step quick guide single instruction sheet, I decided to rather use this page as a setup guide.The basic setup involves installing an OS on the UP board (using the supplied USB flash drive), installing the RealSense library and installing ROS, an open source framework for robotics.

What you’ll need

In addition to the Intel Robotics Development Kit, you will need a keyboard, mouse, HDMI cable, ethernet cable, and USB flash disk (with at least 2GB free space).

As of writing this,  Ubuntu 16.04 LTS OS and ROS Kinetic Kame is supported for the RealSense RDK.*

Set up the UP board

*The UP board actually supports a broad range of operating systems such as Linux (Ubilinux, Ubuntu, Yocto), Android, and MS Windows. The first step is t install Ubuntu 16/04 LTS on the UP board:

  • Download the OS before getting started as this can take quite a while, leaving you bored while waiting. Make sure that the downloaded .iso file is ~1.5GB in size.
  • Follow these instructions to make a bootable USB drive containing the OS you just downloaded (you’ll need your own USB flash disk with at least 2GB free space).
  • To connect the UP board, first connect your keyboard, mouse and bootable USB drive into 3 USB 2 ports. Now plug your HDMI cable into the UP board’s HDMI port and connect this to your external monitor. Next, connect the USB 3 adapter to the USB 3 port on the UP board (we’ll be using this later to connect the RealSense camera). Finally, connect the power supply to a wall socket and power up your UP board. At this point, the blue LED should be on and the fan should be spinning freely. A GNU GRUB bootloader screen should come up on your monitor.
  • Install the OS on the UP board by selecting the “Install Ubuntu” option on the GRUB screen, and follow the steps to fully erase the disk and install Ubuntu. For now, opt to update the OS and install packages after the initial installation.
  • Tip: After removing the power supply in order to safely remove the bootable flash disk, my UP board was stuck in EFI shell mode. To get out of this in EFI shell type Exit. The password screen comes up (just press enter), and exit the Aptio Setup Utility.
  • Tip: If you get a message about UEFI mode, continue the installation in that mode making sure to choose the option to ” Erase disk and Install Ubuntu”. If the installation fails the first time, restart and press “F7” to see a list of boot devices. Then insert the bootable drive and re-install. Make sure to choose option “Erase disk and Install Ubuntu” in UEFI mode.

Run OS updates

  • The UP board unfortunately doesn’t support WiFi communication, so plug an ethernet cable into the port and connect to your router to access the Internet.
  • Open terminal and type: sudo apt update and sudo apt -y dist-upgrade (this takes a while so make a cup of tea while you wait). If you get an error about not being able to lock /var/lib/apt/lists/ then it means an update is running in the background. You can stop it by typing this command: sudo killall apt-get

Install the Linux UP board kernel and RealSense patches

This kernel will enable features specific to the UP board that aren’t supported by ubuntu and the kernel video capture format used by the Intel RealSense camera.  The 4.4 kernel packages are available for Ubuntu 16.04.x LTS. You can find full instructions here.

  • In terminal run: sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubilinux/up and sudo apt update and sudo apt install linux-upboard. These commands will add the necessary repository, update it and install the Linux UP board kernel.
  • To change the defaut kernel on boot, remove all -generic kernels by typing the following command into terminal: sudo apt -y autoremove --purge 'linux-.*generic'
  • Test that this works by rebooting: sudo reboot.
  • Once logged in again, in terminal type: uname -r to check that the kernel is running. If all is well you should see the output “4.4.0-1-upboard”
  • Modify your apt sources.list files so that kernel sources can be found when installing ros-kinetic-librealsense package. To do this type the following into terminal:

Install the Robot Operating System (ROS) with RealSense support

  •  Add ROS repository and update the Ubuntu package list by typing the commands in terminal: sudo add-apt-repository and sudo apt-key adv - -keyserver hkp:// - -recv-key 0xB01FA116 and sudo apt update
  • To install ROS packages and update, run: sudo apt -y install ros-kinetic-desktop-full python-rosinstall ros-kinetic-realsense-camera and sudo rosdep init and rosdep update and echo "source /opt/ros/kinetic/setup.bash" >> ~/.bashrc and source ~/.bashrc
  • A new kernel was built when installing the ros-kinetic-librealsense package. A reboot is therefore required: sudo reboot
  • Log in again and verify the new kernel image name using: uname -r</code> . If all is well, the output should be "4.4.0-1-upboard".

The setup is complete! Now it’s time to have fun with actually using the RealSense camera.

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