In order to successfully use RoboSherlock, you need to be familiar with the basics of the UIMA framework. For an in depth view of what UIMA is check the online documentation. RoboSherlock mostly uses the C++ implementation of the framework, which is limited in functionality, but offers the basic capabilities that are needed. A brief description of the most important concepts is presented below.


In UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) a processing pipeline is split in to several expert modules (called Annotators) that analyze the raw data and annotate parts of it with numeric or symbolic representations. Running several Annotators sequentially results in a rich description of the raw data, enabling reasoning about what the images represent (e.g. what are the regions in the image that could be objects, or a human, or a supporting plane etc.). Important concepts:


The CAS, short for Common Analysis Structure, is the central data structure in UIMA. It works like a white-board architecture, at the time of creation it is empty and it gets filled with data during execution time.

IMPORTANT: The CAS is created every time the pipeline starts and is deleted once every module in the pipeline has finished executing.

Type System

The Type System is the ‘common language’ used by the modules in a pipeline. Everything that is added to a CAS needs to have a type defined. For a detailed presentation of the existing types check the TypeSystem section.

Analysis Engines

Analysis Engines (AEs) are the core processing components in RoboSherlock. They can be either primitive or aggregate. In most cases a primitive AE is used to wrap an existing perception algorithm, read input data, produce outputs etc. Aggregate AEs are composed of multiple primitive AEs and in essence they define a perception pipeline. More details about existing AEs and how to write a new AE …soon to come.

There are two important parts of the RoboSherlock project: the code base and the .xml definitions of the components.

Structure of the robosherlock package:

|-config              -> configuration files for input (Kinect, Xtion, MongoDB)
|  |-analysis_engines -> xml definitions of aggregate AEs
|  |-annotators       -> xml definitions of primitive AEs
|  |-typesystem       -> xml definitions of the typesystem
|-launch              -> ROS launch files
|-scripts             -> various utility scripts
|-src                 -> code base
|package.xml          -> catkin package xml
|CMakeLists.txt       -> CMake file

RoboSherlock is meant to be used together with ROS, hence it offers interfaces to sensors only through their ROS drivers. Cameras that we have tested the software on are the Xbox Kinect, Microsoft Kinect One and Asus Xtion devices, which have a straight forward usage through their respective ROS packages.