Donatello will come back from winter break with some nice new skills and a whole lot more reliability.
R@M meetings resumed on Jan. 5 (every Tuesday and Thursday at 5), and recent work has focused on controls and communication. Donatello can now be teleoperated across the Internet, giving a remote operator (next door or around the world) a clear view of the robot's surroundings — live cameras, LADAR and updates on the propulsion and power systems. The robot works in any place where the UMD wireless network is available, and we'll be adding new antennas to fill in the weak spots between buildings.
Several projects are in progress:
- Mechanical: This subteam is building a modular onboard electronics rack. We'll be replacing the old ATX computer case with a slot-based platform, where hardware changes won't have to take the robot down for hours (or days).
- Sensors: The electronics and software teams are designing and building a new sensor array to enable accurate odometry. This system (a mix of optical and magnetic sensors and microcontrollers to process the data) will replace our less accurate, not-that-consistent speed measurement method, and we'll get a second source of angular velocity readings to supplement the data from our principal steering system.
- Software: The high-level control software was built on top of the Player robot server, but we're migrating to ROS, which is easier to extend, has more pre-built modules and is getting greater developer attention.
- Vision: Line following, sidewalk detection and LADAR-based object detection are major vision tasks, and it's about time for us to get some work done on those subjects.
- Planning: Our planner will plot out safe paths to get the robot from A to B.
- State estimator: Every sensor is noisy, and some get worse as they go along. We'll use a range of sensors and a bit of filtering software to derive a high-certainty estimate of the robot's position, velocity and acceleration.
We plan to have the platform (hardware support, motion control and software architecture) in a stable and usable state by the end of the winter break, when we will be able to switch our attention to integrating sensor data and making Donatello an autonomous robot.