Hybrid, metric - topological, mobile robot navigation

This thesis presents a recent research on the problem of environmental modeling for both localization and map building for wheel-based, differential driven, fully autonomous and self-contained mobile robots. The robots behave in an indoor office environment. They have a multi-sensor setup where the encoders are used for odometry and two exteroperceptive sensors, a 360° laser scanner and a monocular vision system, are employed to perceive the surrounding. The whole approach is feature based meaning that instead of directly using the raw data from the sensor features are firstly extracted. This allows the filtering of noise from the sensors and permits taking account of the dynamics in the environment. Furthermore, a properly chosen feature extraction has the characteristic of better isolating informative patterns. When describing these features care has to be taken that the uncertainty from the measurements is taken into account. The representation of the environment is crucial for mobile robot navigation. The model defines which perception capabilities are required and also which navigation technique is allowed to be used. The presented environmental model is both metric and topological. By coherently combining the two paradigms the advantages of both methods are added in order to face the drawbacks of a single approach. The capabilities of the hybrid approach are exploited to model an indoor office environment where metric information is used locally in structures (rooms, offices), which are naturally defined by the environment itself while the topology of the whole environment is resumed separately thus avoiding the need of global metric consistency. The hybrid model permits the use of two different and complementary approaches for localization, map building and planning. This combination permits the grouping of all the characteristics which enables the following goals to be met: Precision, robustness and practicability. Metric approaches are, per definition, precise. The use of an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) permits to have a precision which is just bounded by the quality of the sensor data. Topological approaches can easily handle large environments because they do not heavily rely on dead reckoning. Global consistency can, therefore, be maintained for large environments. Consistent mapping, which handle large environments, is achieved by choosing a topological localization approach, based on a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP), which is extended to simultaneous localization and map building. The theory can be mathematically proven by making some assumptions. However, as stated during the whole work, at the end the robot itself has to show how good the theory is when used in the real world. For this extensive experimentation for a total of more than 9 km is performed with fully autonomous self-contained robots. These experiments are then carefully analyzed. With the metric approach precision with error bounds of about 1 cm and less than 1 degree is further confirmed by ground truth measurements with a mean error of less than 1 cm. The topological approach is successfully tested by simultaneous localization and map building where the automatically created maps turned out to work better than the a priori maps. Relocation and closing the loop are also successfully tested.

Siegwart, Roland
Lausanne, EPFL

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-01-27

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