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Many robots can be effective navigators with little more than a switch or two to guide their way. Each switch on the robot is a kind of touch sensor : when a switch is depressed, the
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robot knows it has touched some object in front of it. Based on this information, the robot can stop and negotiate a different path to its destination. To be useful, the robot s touch sensors must be mounted where they will come into contact with the objects in their surroundings. For example, you can mount four switches along the bottom periphery of a square-shaped robot so contact with any object will trigger one of the switches. Mechanical switches are triggered only on physical contact; switches that use reflected infrared light or capacitance can be triggered by the proximity of objects. Noncontact switches are useful if the robot might be damaged by running into an object, or vice versa. See 35, Adding the Sense of Touch, for more information on tactile sensors.
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Using a brain with your robot Connecting sensors to a robot computer or microcontroller Using touch to guide your robot Getting your robot from point A to point B
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28, An Overview of Robot Brains 29, Interfacing with Computers and Microcontrollers 35, Adding the Sense of Touch 38, Navigating through Space
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NAVIGATING THROUGH SPACE
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he projects and discussion in this chapter focus on navigating your robot through space not the outer-space kind, but the space between two chairs in your living room, between your bedroom and the hall bathroom, or outside your home by the pool. Robots suddenly become useful once they can master their surroundings, and being able to wend their way through their surrounds is the first step toward that mastery. The techniques used to provide such navigation are varied: path-track systems, infrared beacons, ultrasonic rangers, compass bearings, dead reckoning, and more.
A Game of Goals
A helpful way to look at robot navigation is to think of it as a game, like soccer. The aim of soccer is for the members of one team to kick the ball into a goal. That goal is guarded by a member of the other team, so it s not all that easy to get the ball into the goal. Similarly, for a robot a lot stands between it and its goal of getting from one place to another. Those obstacles include humans, chairs, cats, a puddle of water, an electrical cord just about anything can prevent a robot from successfully traversing a room or yard. To go from point A to point B, your robot will consider the following process (as shown in Fig. 38.1):
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620 NAVIGATING THROUGH SPACE
Go to Point B
Locate Point B
Move around obstacle
Yes Obstacle in way
Read wheel odometers
Correct for heading
Yes Errors in travel
At point B
Stop at point B
FIGURE 38.1 Navigation through open space requires that the robot be programmed not only to achieve the goal of a specific task but to self-correct for possible obstacles. 1. Retrieve instruction of goal: get to point B. This can come from an internal stimulus
(battery is getting low; must get to power recharge station) or from a programmed or external command. 2. Determine where point B is in relation to current position (point A), and determine a path to point B. This requires obtaining the current position using known landmarks or references. 3. Avoid obstacles along the way. If an immovable obstacle is encountered, move around the obstacle and recalculate the path to get to point B.
FOLLOWING A PREDEFINED PATH: LINE TRACING
4. Correct for errors in navigation ( in-path error correction ) caused by such things as
wheel slippage. This can be accomplished by periodically reassessing current position using known landmarks or references. 5. Optionally, time out (give up) if goal is not reached within a specific period of time or distance traveled. Notice the intervening issues that can retard or inhibit the robot from reaching its goal. If there are any immovable obstacles in the way the robot must steer around them. This means its predefined path to get from point A to point B must be recalculated. Position and navigation errors are normal and are to be expected. You can reduce the effects of error by having the robot periodically reassess its position. This can be accomplished by using a number of referencing schemes, such as mapping, active beacons, or landmarks. More about these later in the chapter. People don t like to admit failure, but a robot is just a machine and doesn t know (or care) that it failed to reach its intended destination. You should account for the possibility that the robot may never get to point B. This can be accomplished by using time-outs, which entails either determining the maximum reasonable time to accomplish the goal or, better yet, the maximum reasonable distance that should be traveled to reach the goal. You can build other fail-safes into the system as well, including a program override if the robot can no longer reassess its current location using known landmarks or references. In such a scenario, this could mean its sensors have gone kaput or that the landmarks or references are no longer functioning or accurate. One course of action is to have the robot shut down and wait to be bailed out by its human master.
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