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Learning about tf2 and time (Python)

Goal: Learn to use the timeout in lookup_transform function to wait for a transform to be available on the tf2 tree.

Tutorial level: Intermediate

Time: 10 minutes


In previous tutorials, we recreated the turtle demo by writing a tf2 broadcaster and a tf2 listener. We also learned how to add a new frame to the transformation tree. Now we will learn more about the timeout argument which makes the lookup_transform wait for the specified transform for up to the specified duration before throwing an exception. This tool can be useful to listen for transforms that are published at varying rates or those incoming source with unreliable networking and non negligible latency. This tutorial will teach you how use the timeout in lookup_transform function to wait for a transform to be available on the tf2 tree.


1 Update the listener node

Edit and remove the timeout=Duration(seconds=1.0) parameter that is passed to the lookup_transform() call on line 76. It should look like shown below:

trans = self._tf_buffer.lookup_transform(

Moreover, import additional exceptions that we will handle in the beggining of the file:

from tf2_ros import LookupException, ConnectivityException, ExtrapolationException

Edit the exception handling on line 81 by adding newly imported exceptions and raise statement to see the exception:

except (LookupException, ConnectivityException, ExtrapolationException):
   self.get_logger().info('transform not ready')

If you now try to run the launch file, you will notice that it is failing:

ros2 launch learning_tf2_py

2 Fix the listener node

You now should notice that lookup_transform() is failing. It tells you that the frame does not exist or that the data is in the future. To fix this, edit your code on line 76 as shown below (return the timeout parameter):

trans = self._tf_buffer.lookup_transform(

The lookup_transform can take four arguments, where the last one is an optional timeout. It will block for up to that duration waiting for it to timeout.


Once this change is made, remove the raise line from the except() block that we added above or the code will continue to fail.

You can now run the launch file.

ros2 launch learning_tf2_py

You should notice that lookup_transform() will actually block until the transform between the two turtles becomes available (this will usually take a few milli-seconds). Once the timeout has been reached (one second in this case), an exception will be raised only if the transform is still not available.


In this tutorial you learned more about the lookup_transform function and its timeout features. You also learned how to catch and handle additional exceptions that can be thrown by tf2.