The Stanford Cart and the CMU Rover,
CARNEGIE-MELLON UNIV PITTSBURGH PA ROBOTICS INST
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The Stanford Cart was a remotely controlled TV equipped mobile robot. A computer program was written which drove the Cart through cluttered spaces, gaining its knowledge of the world entirely from images broadcast by an onboard TV system. The CMU Rover is a more capable, and nearly operational, robot being built to develop and extend the Stanford work and to explore new directions. The Cart used several kinds of stereopsis to locate objects around it in 3D and to deduce its own motion. It planned an obstacle avoiding path to a desired destination on the basis of a model built with this information. The plan changed as the Cart perceived new obstacles on its journey. The system was reliable for short runs, but slow. The Cart moved one meter every ten to fifteen minutes, in lurches. After rolling a meter it stopped, took some pictures and thought about them for a long time. Then it planned a new path, executed a little of it, and paused again. It successfully drove the Cart through several 20 meter courses each taking about five hours complex enough to necessitate three or four avoiding swerves it failed in other trials in revealing ways. The Rover system has been designed with maximum mechanical and control system flexibility to support a wide range of research in perception and control. It features an omnidirectional steering system, a dozen onboard processors for essential real time tasks, and a large remote computer to be helped by a high speed digitizingdata playback unit and a high performance array processor. Distributed high level control software similar in organization to the Hearsay II speech understanding system and the beginnings of a vision library are being readied.