Thanks to the efforts of the robotics and autonomous systems community, robots are becoming ever more capable. There is also an increasing demand from end-users for autonomous service robots that can operate in real environments for extended periods. In the STRANDS project we are tackling this demand head-on by integrating state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and robotics research into mobile service robots, and deploying these systems for long-term installations in security and care environments. Over four deployments, our robots have been operational for a combined duration of 104 days autonomously performing end-user defined tasks, covering 116km in the process. In this article we describe the approach we have used to enable long-term autonomous operation in everyday environments, and how our robots are able to use their long run times to improve their own performance
Abstract-Autonomous systems will play an essential role in many applications across diverse domains including space, marine, air, field, road, and service robotics. They will assist us in our daily routines and perform dangerous, dirty and dull tasks. However, enabling robotic systems to perform autonomously in complex, real-world scenarios over extended time periods (i.e. weeks, months, or years) poses many challenges. Some of these have been investigated by sub-disciplines of Artificial Intelligence (AI) including navigation & mapping, perception, knowledge representation & reasoning, planning, interaction, and learning. The different sub-disciplines have developed techniques that, when re-integrated within an autonomous system, can enable robots to operate effectively in complex, long-term scenarios. In this paper, we survey and discuss AI techniques as 'enablers' for long-term robot autonomy, current progress in integrating these techniques within long-running robotic systems, and the future challenges and opportunities for AI in long-term autonomy.
A long-standing goal of AI is to enable robots to plan in the face of uncertain and incomplete information, and to handle task failure intelligently. This paper shows how to achieve this. There are two central ideas. The first idea is to organize the robot's knowledge into three layers: instance knowledge at the bottom, commonsense knowledge above that, and diagnostic knowledge on top. Knowledge in a layer above can be used to modify knowledge in the layer(s) below. The second idea is that the robot should represent not just how its actions change the world, but also what it knows or believes. There are two types of knowledge effects the robot's actions can have: epistemic effects (I believe X because I saw it) and assumptions (I'll assume X to be true). By combining the knowledge layers with the models of knowledge effects, we can simultaneously solve several problems in robotics: (i) task planning and execution under uncertainty; (ii) task planning and execution in open worlds; (iii) explaining task failure; (iv) verifying those explanations. The paper describes how the ideas are implemented in a three-layer architecture on a mobile robot platform. The robot implementation was evaluated in five different experiments on object search, mapping, and room categorization.
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Abstract-In this article we present and evaluate a system which allows a mobile robot to autonomously detect, model and re-recognize objects in everyday environments. Whilst other systems have demonstrated one of these elements, to our knowledge we present the first system which is capable of doing all of these things, all without human interaction, in normal indoor scenes. Our system detects objects to learn by modelling the static part of the environment and extracting dynamic elements. It then creates and executes a view plan around a dynamic element to gather additional views for learning. Finally these views are fused to create an object model. The performance of the system is evaluated on publicly available datasets as well as on data collected by the robot in both controlled and uncontrolled scenarios.
We present a method to specify tasks and synthesise cost-optimal policies for Markov decision processes using co-safe linear temporal logic. Our approach incorporates a dynamic task handling procedure which allows for the addition of new tasks during execution and provides the ability to replan an optimal policy on-the-fly. This new policy minimises the cost to satisfy the conjunction of the current tasks and the new one, taking into account how much of the current tasks has already been executed. We illustrate our approach by applying it to motion planning for a mobile service robot.
This article presents an Expert-guided Mixed-initiative Control Switcher (EMICS) for remotely operated mobile robots. The EMICS enables switching between different levels of autonomy during task execution initiated by either the human operator and/or the EMICS. The EMICS is evaluated in two disaster-response-inspired experiments, one with a simulated robot and test arena, and one with a real robot in a realistic environment. Analyses from the two experiments provide evidence that: (a) Human-Initiative (HI) systems outperform systems with single modes of operation, such as pure teleoperation, in navigation tasks; (b) in the context of the simulated robot experiment, Mixed-initiative (MI) systems provide improved performance in navigation tasks, improved operator performance in cognitive demanding secondary tasks, and improved operator workload compared to HI. Last, our experiment on a physical robot provides empirical evidence that identify two major challenges for MI control: (a) the design of context-aware MI control systems; and (b) the conflict for control between the robot’s MI control system and the operator. Insights regarding these challenges are discussed and ways to tackle them are proposed.
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