For a robot to interact with its environment, it first needs to know where it is. In robotics research, this problem is known as localisation and the ability to localise is a key enabler for autonomous behaviour.
In outdoor environments, localisation information is often available in the form of data from the Global Positioning System or GPS. However, in some environments in which the CSIR hopes to deploy its robot platforms, GPS is not available. One such environment is that of an underground mine. In mining, a high quality localisation algorithm is essential for any autonomous mining robot to carry out its tasks.
To validate the performance of these localisation algorithms, researchers often make use of what is known as ground-truth, which is an accurate estimate of the robot’s real location. To obtain this information, the CSIR acquired a high-end motion-capture system to accurately track and locate rigid objects with sub-millimetre accuracy in a cubicle wth a floor area of 10m x 8m and height of 2m.
The Vicon motion-capture system allows users to track any movement using multiple, passive, infrared, reflective markers. By using these markers, the Vicon is able to determine the exact location of a rigid body together with its orientation. The infrared light emitted by the cameras bounces off the markers, allowing the cameras to track any movement with precision.
Using this technology, CSIR researchers will be able to validate their own localisation algorithms, quantitatively evaluating and comparing their performance with the existing state-of-the-art equipment. The system will also enable researchers to leap-frog the localisation problem and progress to more challenging work such as human-robot interaction and collaboration.
Bought through local supplier LifeMax, the system can benefit areas in addition to engineering, such as sports (e.g. for injury diagnosis) and other life sciences (e.g. for biomechanical analysis). In life sciences, for example, Vicon systems have been used for gait analysis of children with cerebral palsy.