The ach library: a new framework for real-time communication


Correct real-time software is vital for robots in safety-critical roles such as service and disaster response. These systems depend on software for locomotion, navigation, manipulation, and even seemingly innocuous tasks such as safely regulating battery voltage. A multiprocess software design increases robustness by isolating errors to a single process, allowing the rest of the system to continue operation. This approach also assists with modularity and concurrency. For real-time tasks, such as dynamic balance and force control of manipulators, it is critical to communicate the latest data sample with minimum latency. There are many communication approaches intended for both general-purpose and real-time needs [9], [13], [15], [17], [19]. Typical methods focus on reliable communication or network transparency and accept a tradeoff of increased message latency or the potential to discard newer data. By focusing instead on the specific case of real-time communication on a single host, we reduce communication latency and guarantee access to the latest sample. We present a new interprocess communication (IPC) library, Ach which addresses this need, and discuss its application for real-time multiprocess control on three humanoid robots (Figure 1). (Ach is available at The name Ach comes from the common abbreviation for the motor neurotransmitter Acetylcholine and the computer networking term ACK.)

IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine
Ayonga Hereid
Ayonga Hereid
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

My research aims to develop computational and theoretical tools to mitigate the high dimensionality and nonlinearity present in robot control and motion planning problems.