tf2_server repository

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Last Updated 2020-02-18
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Name Version
tf2_server 1.0.5



An upgraded tf2_ros/buffer_server. It supports the same API as the tf2_ros/buffer_server node. Moreover, it allows clients to request only subparts of the TF tree, which results in lowering the data transfer rates. This mode is useful as a middle way between standard TransformListener and the action interface of the buffer_server - it transmits only the requested transform(s), but isn't burdened with the overhead the action interface brings in.

This package also provides helper libraries for use in C++ and Python clients that make usage of this server easier.


The subtree subscription API is built around ReuqestTranformStream service type. The subtree listeners are configured by RequestTransformStreamRequest objects. The meaning of the individual fields is as follows:

  • string parent_frame: The top-most frame in TF tree you're interested in.
  • string[] child_frames: In case a nonempty list is given, this specifies the child transforms you are interested in. They don't need to be direct children of parent_frame, but they should be in the same TF tree. If an empty list is given, stream the whole subtree of parent_frame. This mode requires intermediate_frames set to True.
  • bool intermediate_frames: If False, stream only direct parent_frame->child_frame transforms (no matter if they were originally direct neighbors). If True, stream all the transforms between parent_frame and all child_frames.
  • duration publication_period: How often to publish the transforms.
  • bool allow_transforms_update: If true, periodically checks for updates in subtree topology. Can even handle cases when parent_frame isn't reachable at the time of the request. Default is false.
  • int32 publisher_queue_size: Queue size of the transform publisher.
  • string requested_topic_name: If nonempty, the stream will be published on the given topic. Leads to an error if another stream is only registered on this topic with incompatible settings.
  • string requested_static_topic_name: If nonempty, specifies the name of the stream with static transforms. Defaults to $(requested_topic_name)/static.
  • double initial_streams_wait_time: Specifies how long to wait before registering streams from parameter streams (in seconds).
  • dict streams: If nonempty, specifies some streams that should be registered right after starting the server. Each stream has a name (its key in this dict). The stream will be published at tf2_server/stream_key and tf2_server/stream_key/static. The structure is the following:

    streams: body: parent_frame: 'base_link' child_frames: [] intermediate_frames: True publication_period: 0.1 publisher_queue_size: 11

Example usage


    <param name="buffer_size" value="30.0"/>
    <param name="publish_frame_service" value="true"/>
    <param name="use_node_namespace" value="true"/>
    <node name="tf_server" pkg="tf2_server" type="tf2_server_node">
        <param name="transforms_update_period" value="10.0" />

C++ client

This C++ client code shows how to subscribe the whole TF subtree under the base_link frame. The transforms in the buffer get updated once every 0.1 s.

#include <tf2_server/tf2_subtree_listener.h>

RequestTransformStreamRequest req;
req.parent_frame = "base_link";
req.child_frames = { };
req.intermediate_frames = true;
req.publisher_queue_size = 10;
req.publication_period = ros::Duration(0.1);

tf2_ros::Buffer buffer;
TransformSubtreeListener listener(req, buffer, false, ros::Duration(10));


buffer.canTransform("base_link", "left_track", ros::Time(0));

Python client

This Python client example shows how to subscribe exactly two transforms: base_link->left_track and base_link->front_left_flipper_endpoint. No other transforms are transmitted to the client.

req = RequestTransformStreamRequest()
req.parent_frame = "base_link"
req.child_frames = ["left_track", "front_left_flipper_endpoint"]
req.intermediate_frames = False
req.publisher_queue_size = 10
req.publication_period = rospy.Duration(0.1)

buffer = Buffer()
listener = TransformSubtreeListener(req, buffer, max_server_wait=rospy.Duration(10))


buffer.can_transform("base_link", "left_track", rospy.Time(0))

Principle of working of the subtree listener/publisher

The TransformSubtreeListener classes hide some implementation details from the user. Here we describe what exactly happens when a subtree is requested.

First, service tf2_server/request_transform_stream is called with the given subtree configuration. The server responds with a message that specifies topic_name and static_topic_name, which are autogenerated topic names from namespace tf2_server/streams/*. The client then remaps /tf and /tf_static to these topics and subscribes to them.

On the server side, the autogenerated topics are cached and when a new client asks for an already published subtree configuration, the already existing topic names are returned. Each unique subtree configuration starts a timer in the server node, which publishes the requested transforms on the requested rate. When last client with a given configuration disconnects from its topics, the timer is stopped so that it doesn't eat resources. But the topic remains and anyone can connect later, which will start the timer again.


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