Accessing Mac webcam in ROS (running Ubuntu on the Mac)

Here I show how to get access to the built in webcam on a MacBook in ROS (Robot Operating System).

This post assumes you have followed these two previous posts:
1. Install Ubuntu on an external USB drive so that you can run it from your MacBook
2. Installing ROS


In the terminal, run the following two commands:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Give Ubuntu access to your Mac’s webcam

From the terminal, run these commands:

$ cd /etc/local/src
$ git clone
$ cd bcwc_pcie/firmware
$ sudo make
$ sudo make install
$ cd ..
$ sudo make
$ sudo install
$ sudo depmod
$ sudo modprobe -r bdc_pci
$ sudo modprobe facetimehd

These instructions come from medium and askubuntu. Note: I received an error on the second install command, but it still works fine.

Test that the camera is working

Install guvcview:

$ sudo apt-get install guvcview

Then run it (by typing gucview into the terminal). If all goes well, a live view feed will pop up!

Install the usb_cam ROS driver:

To get access we will use the usb_cam driver. These steps assume that you have already built a catkin workspace, called catkin_ws.

$ cd ~/catkin_ws/src
$ git clone
$ cd ~/catkin
$ catkin_make

Launch the camera driver / viewer

$ cd ~/catkin_ws/src/usb_cam/launch
$ roslaunch usb_cam-test.launch

If all is good, a live video feed will now pop up. Note that the launch file spins up two nodes: usb_cam and image_view.

Explore the ROS topics

Type “rostopic list” into the terminal window to see a list of the ros topics that are available to you in the ROS ecosystem.