Applied Informatics Group

Home-Tour

The so called “Home-Tour” represents a scenario in which a standard customer has purchased a new robot, for assisting in a private home environment. As a first step towards autonomous operation the robot has to be familiarized with its working environment. Since private surroundings vary a lot, only a very limited amount of knowledge can be provided in advance. Consequently, the robot has to adapt to the possessor's individual home. Moreover, it has cope with disarranged or newly bought furniture without an expert modifying the system. As a consequence, the robot has to learn its operating area by interacting with a human during a guided tour – the “Home Tour”. The robot follows the owner around, while she/he names the different rooms (e.g., kitchen), places (e.g., dishwasher), and objects (e.g., dishes) to it. For a broad acceptance of such systems in daily life, the user has not necessarily to be an expert in robotics.

 

Although many tests have been carried out in laboratories with a home-like appearance, they are still far apart from realistic settings. Therefore, a real world apartment is permanently rented and equipped with standard furniture (like cupboards, tables, chairs, etc.).


The apartment is inhabited by our robot Biron (Bielefeld Robot Companion). The Biron robot platform is a mobilerobots research GuiaBot. The robot base is a PatrolBot which is 59cm in length, 48cm in width and in 38cm height, weighs approx. 45 kilograms with batteries and is maneuverable with 1.7 millimeters per second maximum translation and 300 degrees rotation per second. The drive is a two-wheel differential drive with two passive rear casters for balance. Its solid foam-filled 19cm diameter wheels are at the center of rotation. Inside the base there is a 180 degree laser range finder. It can sense objects out to 10-50 meters with a ranging accuracy of ±18 millimeters. The scanning height is at ~30cm above the floor. The robot body stands ~ 130cm of the ground and holds a 12x zoom pan-/tilt camera together with two microphones for the detection of the sound direction.

Additionally the robot was equipped with a Pioneer 5 degrees-of-freedom (DOF) arm, which is a small and lightweight manipulator driven by six open-loop servo motors. The Pioneer arm’s end-effector is a gripper whose foam-lined fingers allow for grasp and manipulation of objects as large as a soda can and as heavy as 150 grams throughout the arm’s envelope of operation.

 

For enhanced Human-Robot-Interaction the robot is equipped with multi-modal person detection and tracking system based on laser-, sound-, and video-data. Communication between Biron and its user is not only supported by a naturally spoken dialogue system but also incorporates deictic gestures. For smooth interaction spatial concepts and implicit body movements will be integrated such that the robot will be enhanced in reacting to social signals.

 

To evaluate the described approach a user study with two trials was conducted in the apartment. After a short introduction to the system of a few minutes the naïve users were asked to guide Biron from the living room to the dining room. During the guidance the user had to tell the robot the room names and teach it several objects by verbal and deictic reference. Nearly all participants completed the task successfully in a reasonable amount of time.

 

User study results

Home-Tour-Study: Naïve users were shortly introduced to the robot and guided it around the flat.

 

With the lessons learned from the Home-Tour our demonstrator has successfully participated in the German Open of RoboCup@Home and will take part in the World Championship at Graz, Austria. A video of the performance at the German Open Finals can be found below.

 

More information about the system and the robot can be found for example in [1] or [2]

 

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Finals of the RoboCub@Home German Open

 

Related Publications

  1. 2009 | Conference Paper | PUB-ID: 1997429
    Mixed-Initiative in Human Augmented Mapping
    Peltason J, Siepmann F, Spexard TP, Wrede B, Hanheide M, Topp EA (2009)
    In: IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. IEEE: 2146-2153.
    PUB | DOI
     
  2.  

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