Explore Basic Behavior of the TurtleBot

This example helps you to explore basic autonomy with the TurtleBot®. The described behavior drives the robot forward and changes its direction when there is an obstacle. You will subscribe to the laser scan topic and publish the velocity topic to control the TurtleBot.

Prerequisites: Communicate with the TurtleBot

Hardware Support Package for TurtleBot

This example gives an overview of working with a TurtleBot using its native ROS interface. The ROS Toolbox™ Support Package for TurtleBot based Robots provides a more streamlined interface to TurtleBot. It allows you to:

  • Acquire sensor data and send control commands without explicitly calling ROS commands

  • Communicate transparently with a simulated robot in Gazebo or with a physical TurtleBot

To install the support package, open Add-Ons > Get Hardware Support Packages on the MATLAB® Home tab and select ROS Toolbox Support Package for TurtleBot based Robots. Alternatively, use the rosAddons command.

Connect to the TurtleBot

Make sure you have a TurtleBot running either in simulation through Gazebo® or on real hardware. Refer to Get Started with Gazebo and a Simulated TurtleBot or Get Started with a Real TurtleBot for the startup procedure. Any Gazebo world works while running in simulation, however, Gazebo TurtleBot World is the most interesting for the purposes of this example.

Initialize ROS. Connect to the TurtleBot by replacing ipaddress with the IP address of the TurtleBot.

ipaddress = ''
ipaddress = 
Initializing global node /matlab_global_node_09953 with NodeURI

Create a publisher for the robot's velocity and create a message for that topic.

robot = rospublisher('/mobile_base/commands/velocity');
velmsg = rosmessage(robot);

Receive Scan Data

Make sure that you start the Kinect® camera if you are working with real TurtleBot hardware. The command to start the Kinect Camera is:

 roslaunch turtlebot_bringup 3dsensor.launch

You must execute the command in a terminal on the TurtleBot. The TurtleBot uses the Kinect data to simulate a laser scan that is published on the /scan topic. For the remainder of this example, the term laser scan refers to data published on this topic.

Subscribe to the topic /scan.

laser = rossubscriber('/scan');

Wait for one laser scan message to arrive and then display it.

scan = receive(laser,3)
scan = 
  ROS LaserScan message with properties:

       MessageType: 'sensor_msgs/LaserScan'
            Header: [1×1 Header]
          AngleMin: -0.5216
          AngleMax: 0.5243
    AngleIncrement: 0.0016
     TimeIncrement: 0
          ScanTime: 0.0330
          RangeMin: 0.4500
          RangeMax: 10
            Ranges: [640×1 single]
       Intensities: [0×1 single]

  Use showdetails to show the contents of the message


If you see an error, it is possible that the laser scan topic is not receiving any data. If you are running in simulation, try restarting Gazebo. If you are using hardware, make sure that you started the Kinect camera properly.

Run the following lines of code, which plot a live laser scan feed for ten seconds. Move an object in front of the TurtleBot and bring it close enough until it no longer shows up in the plot window. The laser scan has a limited range because of hardware limitations of the Kinect camera. The Kinect has a minimum sensing range of 0.8 meters and a maximum range of 4 meters. Any objects outside these limits will not be detected by the sensor.

while toc < 10
  scan = receive(laser,3);

Simple Obstacle Avoidance

Based on the distance readings from the laser scan, you can implement a simple obstacle avoidance algorithm. You can use a simple while loop to implement this behavior.

Set some parameters that will be used in the processing loop. You can modify these values for different behavior.

spinVelocity = 0.6;       % Angular velocity (rad/s)
forwardVelocity = 0.1;    % Linear velocity (m/s)
backwardVelocity = -0.02; % Linear velocity (reverse) (m/s)
distanceThreshold = 0.6;  % Distance threshold (m) for turning

Run a loop to move the robot forward and compute the closest obstacles to the robot. When an obstacle is within the limits of the distanceThreshold, the robot turns. This loop stops after 20 seconds of run time. CTRL+C (or Control+C on the Mac) also stops this loop.

  while toc < 20
      % Collect information from laser scan
      scan = receive(laser);
      data = readCartesian(scan);
      x = data(:,1);
      y = data(:,2);
      % Compute distance of the closest obstacle
      dist = sqrt(x.^2 + y.^2);
      minDist = min(dist);     
      % Command robot action
      if minDist < distanceThreshold
          % If close to obstacle, back up slightly and spin
          velmsg.Angular.Z = spinVelocity;
          velmsg.Linear.X = backwardVelocity;
          % Continue on forward path
          velmsg.Linear.X = forwardVelocity;
          velmsg.Angular.Z = 0;

Disconnect from the Robot

Clear the workspace of publishers, subscribers, and other ROS related objects when you are finished with them.


Use rosshutdown once you are done working with the ROS network. Shut down the global node and disconnect from the TurtleBot.

Shutting down global node /matlab_global_node_09953 with NodeURI

More Information

The laser scan has a minimum range at which it no longer sees objects in its way. That minimum is somewhere around 0.5 meters from the Kinect camera.

The laser scan cannot detect glass walls. Following is an image from the Kinect camera:

Here is the corresponding laser scan:

The trash can is visible, but you cannot see the glass wall. When you use the TurtleBot in areas with windows or walls that the TurtleBot might not be able to detect, be aware of the limitations of the laser scan.

Next Steps

Refer to the next example: Control the TurtleBot with Teleoperation