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I have a strong suspicion that this is a bug based on a similar experience I had. Here is the issue I opened to bring up the problem:

The reason that it works for "depths" and not for "points" is because a Gazebo developer came across the bug when writing the gazebo_ros_depth_camera plugin. Because of this bug, he had to write a computationally expensive workaround that indirectly calculates the RGB point cloud from the depth image. If you set the <output> to "points" in the SDF, the gazebo_ros_depth_camera plugin instead uses an incomplete part of the developer's code, which still has the RGB color bug present.

Also FYI, the two hexadecimal values I list in the bug report correspond to the 128 and 160 values you found for the red channel.