Older blog entries for rudybrian (starting at number 7)

I have spent that last two weeks working on a map applet that will allow web visitors to select tour goals and show Zaza's position in the gallery. It's been a while since I last worked with Java and this has been a great incentive to catch-up with the latest Java 2 stuff. I still need to write the back-end support hooks to the planner and localizer. Here's a screen shot taken after adding basic goal point plotting.

We are planning another public test on August 9th in the lower atrium of the museum. If you happen to be in downtown San Jose next Thursday afternoon and want to see Zaza, let me know...

We did another public test in the museum's lower level on 7/19 after doing some tweaking of the reaction module. I grabbed a screenshot of the latest web interface during the test. Definite progress, the kids went nuts.

Later that evening after the museum had closed, I did a test run of the localizer, planner and detection modules. Localization worked great, and the planner worked well. There was one collision with a dynamic obstacle, the cause of which is not currently known. The robot only turned away after the bumper switch was triggered, but the obstacle was visible to both IR sensors and the laser scanner long before the collision. Using the probability map generated by the localizer for entropy comparison, the people detection module hardly worked. Perhapse the more recent methods will be of benefit?

Its been a while since the last update. I did a full scan of the Innovations and Cyberplace areas of the museum on 6/25 before leaving on my dive trip. For comparison, here is the old one from 1999.

I came up with a few new ideas during my vacation for phase 5 of the project. They will need some concept verification before I'll know if it will be possible to proceed in that direction.

This Monday's mapping attempt was only slightly more sucessfull than last time. The particular mapping approach we are using just doesn't work all that well in cube mazes. Too many of the corridors and aisleways are long and featureless, coupled with odometric drift, the results are marginal at best.

Map-building in the museum is another story. The unique architectural and exhibit features provide a wealth of points that the feature integrator can use to correct odometric drift. The resultant maps are beautifull, as the map I scanned this evening in the Explorations gallery can attest. Hopefully, I can find a fast standardized way of generating VRML's from these maps, this one needs over 575M of RAM to render, and an extremely fast multiprocessor machine. Rendering stills in Povray just isn't good enough...

15 Jun 2001 (updated 16 Jun 2001 at 05:09 UTC) »

I was able to spend some more time with the latest version of Beesoft from Sebastian on Zaza yesterday morning. Previous attempts at compiling and using the code directly on the robot resulted in application crashes or poor quality maps. The older Linux version has a few header files in different places than modern distributions, and required a few tweaks to compile. I decided to start recompiling everything from scratch to ensure that any existing binaries compiled on later Linux versions were removed. Apart from one problem with the latest version of LOCALIZE, everything appears to work properly now. There have been some significant enhancements to laserServer, laserint, LOCALIZE, and map that are not backwards compatible with earlier colliServer versions, and thus were causing the problems discovered during earlier tests.

I made a test map by joysticking the robot around a small wing of the Tech office cube maze and then ran LOCALIZE, plan and laserint on the offboard development computer with the acquired map. This time it worked flawlessly. I was able to start the robot in a known position and orientation, and it was able to successfully navigate to another point on the map autonomously. Ahh, progress :)

We did another public test(pictures: 1,2,3) of Phase II mode on the lower level of the museum in the afternoon. Far more children and family groups came through the area during the test, and the results are very encouraging.

After the test, later in the evening I attempted to map a much larger part of the McCabe hall facility by the same means as before. Unfortunately, my choice of a random path through the halls (and not actively watching laserint during the map's construction) caused laserint to fail, and produce this map. I'll try again next Monday evening.

If anyone is interested in the techniques used for mapping and localization, several papers were written on Zaza's predecessors RHINO and MINERVA, which have a significant amount of information.

I have upgraded the news collector engine on my primary webserver from WebFetch to NewsClipper. WebFetch hasn't been updated in the last few years, and several of the modules are broken. NewsClipper provides an API for developing your own handlers, which makes the development of new ones quite easy.

I haven't yet found a single, comprehensive source of up to the minute robotics news. Several sites like robots.net, and Robots and Robotics News on Yahoo do a decent job of pruning through the mess of news from AP, and print news sources, but the the results are all done by hand. I am willing to put up with semi-unrelated news, if it lets me see robotics-related news faster. As such, I wrote a handler for NewsClipper that uses Yahoo's news search engine to troll for up to the minute robotics news (my test page is here). Sometime in the next few weeks I'll be transforming my main robotics page into a robotics information portal so that others may take advantage of this information resource.

I finally got a chance to update the Zaza info page for this month's developments.

I have made a great deal of progress on Zaza's 'reaction' module in the last two weeks. This module should provide a much greater level of interactivity between Zaza and the museum visitors. I am currently planning another public test next Thursday (May 31st) to evaluate the new features.

16 May 2001 (updated 16 May 2001 at 21:04 UTC) »

I posted a few new pictures of Zaza chatting with the Girlscouts during the 5/4 camp-in at the Tech on the main Zaza website. SFRSA member Cliff Thompson posted a few on the events section of his club's website after the HBRC/SFRSA 'Meet Zaza' get together. I was able to get a few pics of HBRC member Camp Peavey's Springy Thingy after the event.

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