GenoM3, a tool to develop robotic components

The process of developing robotic components can significantly be improved by the mean of a tool called GenoM3. As a result of two decades of research on real time architectures for autonomous systems [Alami1998] [Mallet2010], GenoM3 brings valuable attributes to robotic components:

  • Middleware independence

    Components developed with GenoM3 are middleware independent, i.e. they are not tied to a specific middleware and can be compiled for different middlewares without changing their source code.

    This is achieved through the notion of templates: a GenoM3 template is a set of instructions which, when applied to the component’s source files, automatically generates the code related to middleware communication. A clear separation of concerns between the algorithmic core and the middleware is thus conducted, helping towards the good design of robotic components.

    ROS appears among the middlewares supported by GenoM3. When using ROS templates to compile a GenoM3 component, the resulting program is a genuine ROS node. Only the development process differs from what could be done by writing a ROS node without the GenoM3 tool.

  • Model-driven design

    GenoM3 emphasises the clear definition of robotic components by adopting a model-driven approach. A GenoM3 component is first defined by a description file, called the dotgen file, with the .gen extension. This file gathers in a single place all the definitions related to the component’s interface, needed by a user to interact with it.

    Each GenoM3 component has its own dotgen file, mainly including the definition of its services and its data flows by the mean of ports (either from the component to the outside, or the other way round). Each service is defined by a name and a list of input and output parameters with their related data type. Each port is defined by a name, a direction (either in or out), and a data type for the data elements it uses. The dotgen file often include in-line documentation to help the understanding of the component’s features (for instance, the role of a given service parameter).

    On the basis of the model specified in the dotgen file, GenoM3 automatically generates real time code as well as skeletons of functions run by the services. So, the developer just has to fill these functions, called codels (for code element) with its algorithms. The corresponding algorithmic core is written in separate C or C++ source files or libraries.

  • Powerful framework

    GenoM3 facilitates the development of essential features for robotic components, such as:

    • the definition of finite state automata with an optional clock,
    • clean interruption mechanisms,
    • efficient error handling.

If you decide to be a user of GenoM3 components, the tutorial GenoM3 through an example will help you to learn how to read dotgen files. For a developer of GenoM3 components, the documentation defines the whole grammar for writing dotgen files, and how dotgen specifications are mapped into C or C++ codels.


GenoM3 components are often called modules (hence the name Generator of Modules). The words module and component refer to the same entity: an independent program that can run on a host machine where the robotic software architecture is distributed.

[Alami1998]R. Alami, R. Chatila, S. Fleury, M. Ghallab, and F. Ingrand. An Architecture for Autonomy. In Int. Jour. on Robotics Research 17, pages 315–337, 1998.
[Mallet2010]A. Mallet, C. Pasteur, M. Herrb, S. Lemaignan, and F. Ingrand. GenoM3: Building Middleware-independent Robotic Components. In IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, Anchorage (Alaska), 2010.