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How much overlap is there between messages and plugins?


I'd like to use Gazebo to visualise a camera calibration problem: create sets of point clouds and cameras (or just origin gizmo representations of cameras) in the scene, and use the graphical client to explore it.

The data needs to be fed from my program though. I understand in this case, I should use messages, rather than a plugin, right?

I am having a lot of trouble understanding the difference in use between plugins and messaging API however. For example, some tutorials have a message passing equivalent, while others don't.

  1. Is there (intended to be) a 1:1 mapping between the messages and native API? So, I could use the Rendering module from my own application?
  2. Where is the documentation for how to use the messages? For example, I have found a pointcloud message, how do I find out which topic it should go to, and how to intialise it, in order to draw a point cloud?