I am a demonstrator for the Year 3 Robotics module (EEE3043).
This consists of technical support for the Robot Operating System (ROS) for solving problems such as perception and exploration.
The broad scope of obstacle avoidance has led to many kinds of computer vision-based approaches. Despite its popularity, it is not a solved problem. Traditional computer vision techniques using cameras and depth sensors often focus on static scenes, or rely on priors about the obstacles. Recent developments in bio-inspired sensors present event cameras as a compelling choice for dynamic scenes. Although these sensors have many advantages over their frame-based counterparts, such as high dynamic range and temporal resolution, event based perception has largely remained in 2D. This often leads to solutions reliant on heuristics and specific to a particular task. We show that the fusion of events and depth overcomes the failure cases of each individual modality when performing obstacle avoidance. Our proposed approach unifies event camera and lidar streams to estimate metric Time-To-Impact (TTI) without prior knowledge of the scene geometry or obstacles. In addition, we release an extensive event-based dataset with six visual streams spanning over 700 scanned scenes.
Accurate extrinsic sensor calibration is essential for both autonomous vehicles and robots. Traditionally this is an involved process requiring calibration targets, known fiducial markers and is generally performed in a lab. Moreover, even a small change in the sensor layout requires recalibration. With the anticipated arrival of consumer autonomous vehicles, there is demand for a system which can do this automatically, after deployment and without specialist human expertise. To solve these limitations, we propose a flexible framework which can estimate extrinsic parameters without an explicit calibration stage, even for sensors with unknown scale. Our first contribution builds upon standard hand-eye calibration by jointly recovering scale. Our second contribution is that our system is made robust to imperfect and degenerate sensor data, by collecting independent sets of poses and automatically selecting those which are most ideal. We show that our approach’s robustness is essential for the target scenario. Unlike previous approaches, ours runs in real time and constantly estimates the extrinsic transform. For both an ideal experimental setup and a real use case, comparison against these approaches shows that we outperform the state-of-the-art. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the recovered scale may be applied to the full trajectory, circumventing the need for scale estimation via sensor fusion.
The successful performance of any system is dependant on the hardware of the agent, which is typically immutable during RL training. In this work, we present ORCHID (Optimisation of Robotic Control and Hardware In Design) which allows for truly simultaneous optimisation of hardware and control parameters in an RL pipeline. We show that by forming a complex differential path through a trajectory rollout we can leverage a vast amount of information from the system that was previously lost in the ‘black-box’ environment. Combining this with a novel hardware-conditioned critic network minimises variance during training and ensures stable updates are made. This allows for refinements to be made to both the morphology and control parameters simultaneously. The result is an efficient and versatile approach to holistic robot design, that brings the final system nearer to true optimality. We show improvements in performance across 4 different test environments with two different control algorithms - in all experiments the maximum performance achieved with ORCHID is shown to be unattainable using only policy updates with the default design. We also show how re-designing a robot using ORCHID in simulation, transfers to a vast improvement in the performance of a real-world robot.