Project Overview

From application point of view, our projects enable robots to assist humans in many scenarios including natural observation, autonomous vehicles, surveillance, infrastructure maintenance, health care, construction monitoring, military operations, search and rescue, journalism, entertainment, etc.

However, from robotics research perspective, these research project can be classified into the following four categories: vision-based robot navigation, networked teleoperation and crowd supported robots, networked sensors and robots, and others. It is worth noting that we are particularly interested in using cameras as the primary sensing modality. In some way, our research really focuses on developing vision techniques for robotics.

Our research takes a balanced approach between theoretical developments and real world physical system built-ups. Therefore, our projects range from low level system design and implementation, such as Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and fabrication, to high level system modeling and algorithmic developments in artificial intelligence, such as robot scheduling and planning. Students need to develop strong system and theoretical backgrounds.

1. VISION-BASED ROBOT NAVIGATION

Bridge-MINDER: Minimally Invasive Robotic Non Destructive Evaluation and Rehabilitation for Bridge Decks (Fall 2014-present)

Collaborating with Rutgers University, we are working on combining state-of-the-art SLAM techniques with ground penetration radar (GPR) for in-traffic bridge deck inspection. Project website is open.

Motion Vector-based Visual SLAM (Summer 2011- present)

We are using motion vectors from MPEG streams to perform SLAM tasks. It is a lightweight algorithm that fits best for small robots in urban environments. Moreover, it is able to perform SLAM in dynamic environments without the assumption that the environment has to be largely stationary.

High level landmarks for guiding robots (HIGUR) (Spring 2013)

Collaborating with Kitware and funded by US Army, this project will develop a real time scene understanding technique-enabled robot navigation and teleoperation scheme. It can be viewed as a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) at scene structure level. Details of the project will be to be announced soon.

 Multi-layered feature graph for robots in urban area (2011-present)

Multi-layered feature graph is a data structure enabling quick understanding of 3D scene structure. It consists of vanishing points, primary planes, line segments in 2D and 3D space and organize them in geometry relationships such as adjacency, parallelism, collinearity, and coplanarity. Project website is here.

Detection of mirroring surfaces (2010-present)

Detecting mirror-like surface is important for obstacle avoidance for indoor robots and UAVs which fly close to buildings. Moreover, addressing this problem is critical for building exterior survey regarding energy load. Exploring scene symmetricity and its inherent geometric constraints, we develop algorithms for robust detection of mirror-like surfaces.

Vertical line-based visual odometry (2010-2011)

The primary purpose is to develop a lightweight localization scheme for small robots in urban area. The idea employs vertical lines as landmarks due to the abundance of building edges and poles. Vertical lines are easy to be extracted form the images and insensitive to lighting and shadow conditions. They are sensitive to the robot horizontal movements. Hence they are nice landmarks for the accurate estimation of the robot ego motion on the road plane. Details of the project can be found here.

Reduce depth ambiguity via planning (2005-2008)

Small robots are often equipped with a single camera. The monocular vision system has difficulty to obtain depth information along baseline direction, which is often coincident with moving direction. Planned lateral movements need to be added to address the problem.

Navigation for an autonomous motorcycle (2003-2007)

Collaborating with Anthony Levandowski and UC Berkeley, we develop the first autonomous motorcycle [video: 47MB] with focus on its navigation system. This vehicle attended Darpa Grand Challenges (DGC) 2004 and 2005. We develop algorithms to enable vehicles to navigate on ill-structured roads by analyzing road surface characteristics and tracing previous vehicle tracks.

2. NETWORKED TELEOPERATION AND CROWD SUPPORTED ROBOTS

Automatic bird detection via crowd sourced videos (2010-present)

To understand nature, biologists need to track birds over large region and extended period of time. Crowd sourced videos are a valuable source of data. Given that bird videos may be taken by untrained amateurs using unknown cameras under different lighting and back-ground conditions, understanding such data is a challenging problem...

Robotic BioTelemetry (2007-2012)

Successor to the CONE project, this project aimed to develop new algorithms and systems to quantitatively measure natural habitats and animal activities via remotely controlled networked robotic cameras. Collaborating with natural scientists, the project builds prototypes and investigates new metrics, mathematical models, algorithms, and architectures in an integrated research and educational project that emphasize active robotic actuation, automation, collaboration, and optimal system design. Details of the project can be found here.

Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) (2005-2009)

Collaborating with UC Berkely, the project proposes a new class of hybrid teleoperated/autonomous robotic "observatories" that allow groups of scientists, via the internet, to remotely observe, record, and index detailed animal activity. Such observatories are made possible by emerging advances in robotic cameras, long-range wireless networking, and distributed sensors. The CONE project has been deployed in several sites and spawn a variety of sub projects including the assist for searching of the legendary ivory-billed woodpeckers in central Arkansas and investigating the potential link between bird range change and climate change in south Texas. For more information please see the project website.

Observe/Co-Opticon/Demonstrate/ShareCam (2002-2005)

The Observe/Co-opticon/ShareCam is a machine for democratic optics, allowing a network of participants to cooperatively control the viewpoint of a shared video camera. The system combines a networked robotic video camera with a graphical user interface that allows many internet-based viewers to share simultaneous control of the camera by specifying desired viewing frames. Algorithms compute the optimal camera frame based on all requests, and position the camera accordingly. Original sharecam site is here . It also been used to observe the Berkeley Sproul Plaza during the 60th anniversary of free speech movements.

Active Panorama and Evolving Panorama (2003-2006)

Our Active Panorama project provides a context + focus interface for applications such as videoconferencing or remote observation with limited bandwidth. We use one pre-calibrated pan-tilt-zoom camera to construct a high resolution panoramic image, which serves as context of the remote environment. We superimpose a live video stream on top of the panorama so that the focused activity appear to live in the panorama. We update the background panorama on the fly as the camera moves.

The Tele-Actor (2000-2004)

The Tele-Actor is a skilled human with cameras and microphones connected to a wireless digital network. Live video and audio are broadcast to participants via the Internet or interactive television. Participants not only view, but interact with each other and with the Tele-Actor by voting on what to do next. Our "Spatial Dynamic Voting" (SDV) interface incorporates group dynamics into a variety of online experiences.

For more information please see the project website.

The Tele-twister (2003-2004)

The Tele-Twister is a game designed for the Internet. As in the original, the game is played with human bodies(the twisters), but in this version you get to play along and direct their moves from the comfort of your computer. As a player, you log in and are automatically assigned to either the Red or Blue team. You view and play from your computer screen. You see two twisters (real humans), one dressed in red, the other in blue. They respond to moves chosen by the Red and Blue online teams. Your team chooses moves for the twisters (eg, "right hand YELLOW") using a Java technology-based online interface. For more information please see the project website.

3. NETWORKED SENSORS AND ROBOTS

Search of Transient Targets (2010-present)

Mobile robots are often employed to perform searching tasks such as finding a black box in a remote area after an airplane crash, searching for victims after an earthquake or a mine collapse disaster, or locating artifacts on the ocean floor. In many cases, the target can intermittently emit short duration signals to assist searching. How to efficiently search for such targets requires detailed analysis of sensing characteristic and robot motion plans. This project will study the fundamental problems behind such searching process.

Localization of Hostile Wireless Sensor Networks (2006-2011)

This project studies the localization of sensor network nodes using mobile robots. Different from other similar projects, we focus on the localization in a hostile environment. One typical scenario is to detect and destroy a sensor network deployed by the enemy in a battlefield. In such an environment, we cannot decode the received packet to know the network information. We are developing a scheme to guide the robot through the hostile environment to search and locate the sensor nodes based on signal strength and communication patterns. This scheme can be adapted for applications such as search and rescue.

4. OTHERS

TamuBot (2004-2011)

During the research process, we have accumulated quite experience in working with robotic hardware. Over the years, we have also developed our own version of four-wheeled skid-steering robots. It is named as TamuBot project. The robot has been a workhorse for our research projects. We have released the design details including mechanisms, motor control board design, software source code in this website. We hope to contribute to robotics community for those who plan to build their own robot.

Repsond-R (2009-2013)

This is project focusing on developmeng of a mobile, distributed instrument for response research. Details about the project can be found here.