In less than 2-months, software teams will compete in the Virtual DRC. The top teams will get their own Boston Dynamics Petman/Atlas humanoid!
Big Question: So what comes with the Petman/Atlas robot? And more specifically, what are the sensors?
Possible Answer: At the October DRC Kickoff Meeting, I snapped a photo of the slide describing the Robot Sensor Head. Apparently a company called Carnegie Robots will provide a MultiSense-SL with the Petman/Atlas. The DRC website has a datasheet describing this head. It isn’t very detailed but from looking at the photo, my “best guess” is that the head employs a Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW LIDAR sensor to provide range data. I asked some colleagues for their “best guess” and they agree.
Why the Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW? First off, a DRC robot needs a suitable sensor to gauge range, and LIDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) is a viable choice. Second, the sensor should be light-weight and operate outdoors. Looking at Hokuyo’s product line, a photo of the UTM-30LX-EW matches the ones in the DARPA slide and the MultiSense-SL datasheet.
Specifications for the UTM-30LX-EW: (See datasheet)
- About $6000
- Uses Multi-Echo Detection for outdoor usage
- Range of distances: 0.1 to 30 meters
- Accuracy: around 10 mm
- 270 degree field-of-view
- Mass: 210 grams
- Interface connection: ethernet
- Dimensions: Width (63 mm) by Depth (66 mm) by Height (87 mm)
One might know that Willow Garage’s PR2 robot employs a similar LIDAR sensor called the Hokuyo UTM-30LX. It’s similar to the UTM-30LX-EW but employs USB interfacing and doesn’t have multi-echo detection (and hence not suited for outdoor use).
Sample Trials Using the Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW: Our lab acquired one of these sensors. In the above photo, the sensor captured range data (right) of a golf cart (left). Here’s a video using the sensor to segment different areas of the vehicle.
Tutorial on the Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW: A quick Google search doesn’t show much info beyond performance specifications. So, I had my student (Mr. Karthikeyan Yuvraj) write a “Getting Started” tutorial. He’s working with our DRC partner Prof. Christopher Rasmussen from the University of Delaware. Below is a photo of his prototype sensor. One can see the Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW mounted below the cameras (binocular lens).
Summary and Impact to DRC: The Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW is a relatively affordable sensor that can fit on a DRC robot without taking up much space or consuming much power. It can operate outdoors and hence meets DARPA’s requirement that all 8-events of the DRC will be held outdoors.
One issue is that the Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW is only effective in sensing objects between 0.1 to 30 meters. In other words, the robot will be “far-sighted“; it may be able to “see” objects far away (as is the case for vehicle-driving), but not those that are close (as may be the case with handling objects like valves, door-handles, hose-connectors and ladder-rungs). The net effect is that we must give DRC-Hubo “bifocals” – and hence add sensors (like cameras) for “near-sightedness“. Alas, our sensor head prototyping continues – stay tuned for more product reviews and tutorials…