Australian Centre for Robotic vision researchers have been using a dog robot called Miro to test visual navigation research – specifically a technique called teach and repeat.
Created by the University of Sheffield, Miro can often be seen being driven around the office collecting images to help him learn and remember a particular route. This then allows him to repeat the same journey without getting lost while only using a small amount of computing power.
The idea is related to biologically inspired concepts of navigation in animals, in particular ants who are able to navigate very successfully. With small and limited visual systems they are able to remember the route they took to get from their nests to food and return back home. Researchers are using models of this to give robots similar navigation abilities.
Autonomous route following is a very useful capability for robots and has applications such as drones repeatedly surveying an environment and could even be used for future robots exploring Mars where no GPS signal is available.
This research hopes to develop a robust navigation capability that works not only for Miro, but for other robots too. Other aspects of QUT’s robotic vision research could extend this work, allowing robots to autonomously follow routes even with changed appearance due to different lighting or weather conditions.