It has been a while since my last blog entry here. As far as ambient events are concerned I continue to be an unemployed software engineer, with the prospects of re-employment looking increasingly remote, but in terms of robotics projects things are going very well indeed. In the last six months using ROS and the Kinect sensor I've made more progress than I'd made over the previous five years of SLAM and stereo vision development.
The GROK2 robot is now navigating well from one room to another. Tuning the localisation parameters took a while, but now the movement looks quite smooth and decisive. I've been able to have the robot navigate reliably to various locations in the kitchen, such as sink, kettle and table. It doesn't have any arms presently, but if I can get some object recognition going then adding an arm would be the next logical step. It's easy to become complacent, but the current level of navigation performance was, until only a few months ago, merely a vague ambition somewhere in the future.
One problem is that it looks as if the robot in its current form is just too wide to get through one particular doorway. This might mean that I need to do some mechanical hacking to thin it down a little and provide more clearance. The small amount of clearance currently available is just too narrow to realistically expect the localisation to be able to handle it reliably. As part of the redesign I may also add a dedicated onboard PC, rather than using a laptop.
Using this sort of system with a PC of some description and RGBD sensor the prospects for robotics over the next decade look far better than at any previous time. 2011 is probably going to be a watershed year in which both the software and the sensor technology became good enough for break-even navigation at a reasonable cost.