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An integrated humanoid control, planning and perception system. Developed by MIT and the University of Edinburgh for the Boston Dynamics Atlas and the NASA Valkyrie humanoid robots


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We're releasing most of the source code from the MIT DRC project in the hope that it will benefit the robotics community. But there are parts of this software, like the Boston Dynamics Atlas software interface, which we are not allowed to release publicly. As a result, this public repo is incomplete. Some of the submodules and external projects are private, and you won't be able to access them unless you're a member of the team. Sorry!

We're actively working on making this a project that can be used by people outside the group, but for now, you should consider it a collection of (potentially) interesting code, not a functional application.

The core algorithms and tools, however, live in their own projects which are much better supported:

OpenHumanoids is the software platform developed by the MIT DRC team and used to compete in successive phases of the DARPA Robotics Challenge with the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot. It also full supports the NASA Valkyrie and several fixed base arms.

This README describes how to download and build the OpenHumanoids source code and how to satisfy 3rd party dependencies.

MIT DRC youtube video

These instructions are written for Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit.

The DRC source code is stored in a Git repository. To download the source code you may need to first install Git on your system:

sudo apt-get install git gitk git-gui

You may need permission to access the git repository hosted on GitHub. To do so, create a GitHub account at if you don't already have one.

Next, add your public SSH key to your GitHub account so that you can easily push and pull over SSH. Read the generating ssh keys article for instructions to generate and link an ssh key to your account.

Download the repository with the git clone command and cd into the distro:

git clone && cd oh-distro

If you are not a member of the OpenHumanoids organization, please deinit one private submodule or else the following command will fail:

git submodule deinit catkin_ws/src/exotica-dev && git rm catkin_ws/src/exotica-dev

Initialize the submodules (Drake, director, pronto):

git submodule update --init --recursive

Add the sandbox remote. The sandbox is the location where branches can be shared.

git remote add sandbox
git fetch sandbox

There are required 3rd party dependencies that can be satisfied by installing packages on Ubuntu. Install with the following commands:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install build-essential cmake debhelper freeglut3-dev gtk-doc-tools libboost-filesystem-dev libboost-iostreams-dev libboost-program-options-dev libboost-random-dev libboost-regex-dev libboost-signals-dev libboost-system-dev libboost-thread-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libfreeimage-dev libglew-dev libgtkmm-2.4-dev libltdl-dev libgsl0-dev libportmidi-dev libprotobuf-dev libprotoc-dev libqt4-dev libqwt-dev libtar-dev libtbb-dev libtinyxml-dev libxml2-dev ncurses-dev pkg-config protobuf-compiler python-matplotlib libvtk5.8 libvtk5-dev libvtk5-qt4-dev libqhull-dev python-pygame doxygen mercurial libglib2.0-dev openjdk-6-jdk python-dev gfortran f2c libf2c2-dev spacenavd libspnav-dev python-numpy python-scipy python-yaml python-vtk python-pip libgmp3-dev libblas-dev liblapack-dev libv4l-dev subversion libxmu-dev libusb-1.0-0-dev python-pymodbus graphviz curl libwww-perl libterm-readkey-perl libx264-dev libopenni-dev swig libqglviewer-dev libsuitesparse-dev libsdl1.2-dev

LCM (v1.1.0) is a required dependency which must be installed from source. It can be retrieved from

cd lcm-1.1.0
sudo make install

LCM v1.1.1 is known to be bad. Do not try to use it.

Download Matlab r2014a from Unzip the file you just downloaded (e.g., unzip ./ cd into the resulting directory sudo ./install When prompted for how to install, choose "Log in with a MathWorks Account."

Newer versions of Matlab are known to not play nicely with our code.

Choose a "Typical" install and click next through the rest of the process. You will need to enter your Mathworks username and password during the install process, and you should see a single license that you can use for the install (this comes from a lookup of the activation key). You should have a functional MATLAB in /usr/local/MATLAB/R2014a/bin now. You can either add this directory to your PATH environment variable (e.g. in ~/.bashrc) or you can make a symlink in /usr/local/bin/ that points to the MATLAB binary - sudo ln -s /usr/local/MATLAB/R2014a/bin/matlab /usr/local/bin/matlab. If you put it in .bashrc, you'll need to source that file before matlab will be in your path (or, just start a new shell)

After installing MATLAB, two of the symlinks for libraries need to be changed:

cd /usr/local/MATLAB/R2014a/sys/os/glnxa64
ls -l

The symbolic links for and should point to versions in /usr/lib, not local ones.

Before changing this libraries, first make sure g++ 4.4 is installed:

sudo apt-get install g++-4.4

Now, modify the symlinks:

sudo rm
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/
sudo rm
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4.4/

Mosek is a solver used in the footstep planner. Obtain an academic licence from Check your email and place your license in ~/mosek/mosek.lic The Mosek code is checked out as part of the project externasl

The behavior of certain build steps can be affected by environment variables, so you should setup your environment before starting the build. The environment is setup by sourcing the file oh-distro/software/config/ Typically, users will source this file automatically in their ~/.bashrc file by adding this line to ~/.bashrc:

source /path-to/oh-distro/software/config/

If you have already done this, make sure your ~/.bashrc contains the correct path to the file in the oh-distro source code directory that you just cloned with git.

Create a file ~/Documents/MATLAB/startup.m that contains the line:

run([getenv('DRC_BASE'), '/software/build/config/drc_control_setup.m'])

Make sure you have sourced the file to setup the DRC environment prior to building. If you did not source the file automatically in ~/.bashrc, then do so now with the following command:

cd oh-distro
source software/config/

If you do not have access to private external submodules such as Gurobi, Snopt, or the Atlas drivers, you need to turn off BUILD_PRIVATE_EXTERNALS:

cd oh-distro/software/externals
mkdir pod-build && cd pod-build
cd ..
make -j
cd ..
make -j

Please make sure to install Gurobi and Snopt manually.

If you are a member of the OpenHumanoids organization, run make to build externals and then the main codebase:

cd software/externals
make -j
cd ..
make -j

Gurobi is a solver used in our walking controller. Install its dependencies with the following commands:

apt-get install curl libwww-perl libterm-readkey-perl

Then generate an academic licence: First make an account , then use the Gurobi key client (grbgetkey) to store the license on your machine. Place it in the suggested location (~/gurobi.lic)

The grbgetkey module is built as part of the externals.

Note that the tarball for Gurobi is part of our tree and the gurobi pod uses it to avoid needing to download it from Gurobi.

ROS is not required per se. If you would like to use this distribution in conjunction with IHMC's SCS, your own controllers for Valkyrie, or to use EXOTica for planning and optimization, please install ROS Indigo including MoveIt and ROS-Control. Valkyrie uses ROS-Control for the Hardware API and our LCM2ROSControl translator package hence requires ROS Control.

sudo apt-get install ros-indigo-desktop-full ros-indigo-moveit-full ros-indigo-ros-control

Compile catkin workspace:

cd $DRC_BASE/catkin_ws
catkin_make -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=RelWithDebInfo

Before you run any ROS code from the catkin workspace, source the setup script:

source catkin_ws/devel/setup.bash

PCL (version 1.7.1) and OpenCV (~ can also be system-installed instead of being built from source in the externals build step resulting in considerable build time savings. In order to do this:

Add a PPA and install PCL:

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:v-launchpad-jochen-sprickerhof-de/pcl
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y libpcl-1.7-all

Use e.g. our in-house packaged version of OpenCV that matches the one being built from source as part of the externals build step:

sudo dpkg -i opencv_2.4.12.2.deb

Note: Using the in-house packaged version of OpenCV requires libdc1394-22-dev to be installed (sudo apt-get install libdc1394-22-dev).

These options are disabled by default on purpose. Then, to make use of the system-installed versions, configure the externals build with the corresponding flags:

cd software/externals
mkdir pod-build && cd pod-build

If installing your own version of Gurobi, please add the following to your .bashrc file before compiling oh-distro (and after sourcing since these variables will also be set when sourcing our drc_environment config):

export GUROBI_HOME=[PATH_TO]/gurobi/gurobi562/linux64
export GRB_LICENSE_FILE=$HOME/gurobi.lic

ISSUE: make in externals failed:

  • REASON: A submodule has been updated
    • retry (make -j 1) and see which module failed
    • remove the relevent module from pod build: rm pod-build/src/[module] pod-build/tmp/[module]
    • continue making externals

ISSUE: drc_lcmtypes fails to build showing something like:

  • .../oh-distro/software/drc_lcmtypes/lcmtypes/drc_robot_command_t.lcm: No such file or directory
  • make[3]: *** [CMakeFiles/lcmgen_c] Error 255
  • REASON: An LCM type has been removed or added.
    • make clean in drc_lcmtypes and then continue

ISSUE: drake won't build.

  • REASON: Drake is specially configured to build with Open Humanoids. Never make in software/drake, always make in software/drake/drake/
  • RESOLUTION: Make a clean build of drake:
cd <path-to>/oh-distro/software
rm drake
cd externals
rm pod-build/src/drake-cmake-* pod-build/tmp/drake-cmake-* -Rf
git submodule update --init --recursive
cd externals
make -j 1
cd software/drake/drake
make -j


An integrated humanoid control, planning and perception system. Developed by MIT and the University of Edinburgh for the Boston Dynamics Atlas and the NASA Valkyrie humanoid robots







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