Big to tiny robots on risky ground: You go first

Jun 12, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog
Credit: Duncan W. Haldane et al.

Researchers have suggested an approach for protecting expensive components in big robots when on difficult terrain. Send in little, inexpensively made robots ahead of them as scouts. Whether the unanticipated risk is in the form of icy patches, sticky mud or rough obstacles, the little and expendable robots can be used for sending ahead of the big robots, for detection of hazards ahead. Researchers from the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and ETH Zurich presented their strategy at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2014 in Hong Kong, which took place from May 31 to June 5.

Their study titled "Detection of Slippery Terrain with a Heterogeneous Team of Legged Robots" is by Duncan W. Haldane, Peter Fankhauser, Roland Siegwart, and Ronald S. Fearing. They set in motion a heterogeneous pairing of a big, expensive robot with a cheap robot acting as terrain scout. Evan Ackerman, writing in IEEE Spectrum, said VelociRoACH was the robot of choice, made mostly of cardboard, which "you can just toss a bunch more into the mix to replace any robots that you may lose." VelociRoACH, from Berkeley, served as the picket robot, paired with the main robot StarlETH quadruped, from ETH Zurich, and running in front.

The video of their work showed a slippery floor. The system involved camera-tracking data and terrain classifier so that StarlETH knew where it was or was not safe to step. StarlETH watched VelociRoACH's back to see how the little robot was doing, but their system is actually quite collaborative. The researchers in their paper wrote, "Due to the limited capabilities of the picket robots, they depend on localization and guidance assistance from the main robot." They also explained, "The main robot runs an on-board state estimation and carries a downward-facing camera to track the smaller robot in front of it. The combination of on-board state estimation and visual tracking allows the main robot to steer and to localize the picket robot."

They noted how this type of joint perception was advantageous because the picket robot lacked the same capability for internal state estimation or remote sensing as the main robot. Ackerman reported that the robots can classify terrain as either slippery or safe to walk on with an accuracy of over 90 percent.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Big and Little Robots Team Up to Conquer Terrain

Future exploration, according to the researchers, will explore what they said were "path planning algorithms and picket formations which will more effectively detect hazardous terrain."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Little Robot Gets Stepped On by Big Robot


Explore further: Eye of the beholder: Improving the human-robot connection (w/ video)

More information: Research paper: robotics.eecs.berkeley.edu/~ro… eth-roach-icra14.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

OutRunner robot steered to fast track with Kickstarter

May 12, 2014

A startup in Pensacola, Florida, Robotics Unlimited, is turning to crowdfunding for their remote controlled fast robot called OutRunner. Running along, their robot can move up to 20 mph over different kinds ...

A robot that jumps, flips, and does pull-ups

Jul 25, 2013

RHex is an all-terrain walking robot that could one day climb over rubble in a rescue mission or cross the desert with environmental sensors strapped to its back.

Recommended for you

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

3 hours ago

Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.

Off-world manufacturing is a go with space printer

6 hours ago

On Friday, the BBC reported on a NASA email exchange with a space station which involved astronauts on the International Space Station using their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in ...

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

7 hours ago

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Sony faces 4th ex-employee lawsuit over hack

7 hours ago

A former director of technology for Sony Pictures Entertainment has sued the company over the data breach that resulted in the online posting of his private financial and personal information.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.