We are accustomed to seeing robots programmed to carry out a concrete task such as the robotic arms well known in industry. What is surprising is to see a robot walking without help and making decisions for itself. This is precisely what the Autonomous Robotics and Systems Research Team at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) are involved in: increasing the autonomy of robots so that they are evermore capable of carrying out more tasks on their own. Some years ago they developed Marisorgin, the robot for distributing mail and now they have put Tartalo into operation.
Those working on the third floor of the Computer Science Faculty in the Basque city of Donostia-San Sebastián find it normal and everyday to meet Tartalo in the corridors- meet, not bump into! This 1.5-metre tall, intelligent machine side-steps any obstacle in its path, thanks to sensors that have been installed around its “body”: sonars that emit and detect ultrasounds, infrared sensors and laser rays. The laser, for example, measures the distance of the robot from any object within a radius of 180 degrees. Mr Basilio Sierra’s team, although it did not build the robot, having acquired it, but it is developing and enhancing its abilities.
With these sensors and the computer that is the robot’s ‘brain’, Tartalo will have the wherewithal to move from one place to another without problems; in fact, to wander. What the research team at the Department of Computational Sciences and Artificial Intelligence want to achieve, however, is a robot capable of going anywhere it is told to.
Finding one’s way inside buildings
The machines best known for guiding one from a starting point to a given goal are GPS navigation systems. However, these do not function inside buildings and neither would it be realistic to create a database with the plans for every building in the world. For this reason the UPV/EHU researchers use biomimetic systems as a basis for developing the robot, meaning that Tartalo does the same as a person or animal on entering a new place: explore the terrain and take in points of reference. But, for a machine to carry out what living creatures do by, as it were, instinct, the computer programmers have to nevertheless put in a huge quantity of data, programmes and calculations.
Buildings are semi-structured environments wherein determined common spaces are always found. Tartalo has been “taught” (programmed) to recognise four of these: room, corridor, front hall and “junction”. Thus, if we were to take the robot to our home, the first thing it would have to do is to carry out a process of auto-location, going around the apartment in order to memorise the location of these four places. By this process the machine creates a species of topological map and the homeowner only has to teach it what each space is called. For this to be possible, UPV/EHU researchers are designing systems of interaction between machine and persons. For example, in order for the robot to understand instructions, they are perfecting a voice recognition system and touch screen.
Single eye, sharp vision
In order to identify what is in front, to distinguish between a room and a corridor, for example, Tartalo uses this single eye - which gives it its name – as a camera. It measures the images received through the eye-camera, compares them with its database and then evaluates probabilities to decide what the image that it has ahead looks like. The robot knows, for example, that if the space is long and narrow, it is a corridor.
The most important skill that Tartalo has been taught is to recognise doors. In fact, in order to access most of the places instructed to do so, the robot will have to pass through a doorway first. This is why the camera is located at the level of the doorknob or handle, which is what enables the identification of the door. When this happens, the system is programmed so that, when moving down a corridor, it seeks and negotiates doorways. If the door is closed, as it is not yet fitted with an arm to open it, it knocks two or three times on the door with its “feet”.
The aim of the UPV/EHU research team is to develop the navigation system of the robot and the recognition of doors is fundamental to this end. From now on, Tartalo will have to learn to distinguish between many other things, such as faces, voices or any object that it is asked to fetch. But each one of these actions requires a specific programme and this, for the time being, is outside the remit of the research being undertaken by the UPV/EHU Autonomous Robotics and Systems Research Team. Nevertheless, little by little the skills developed by other teams will be incorporated into this robot.
Alaitz Ochoa de Eribe | alfa
Magnetic Quantum Objects in a "Nano Egg-Box"
25.07.2017 | Universität Wien
3-D scanning with water
24.07.2017 | Association for Computing Machinery
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.07.2017 | Life Sciences
26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences