Web-Based Robotics with an Autonomous Mobile Robot on the Web

Several years ago it has been running an experiment in web-based interaction with autonomous indoor mobile robot. The robot, called Xavier, can accept commands to travel to different offices in the building, broadcasting camera images as it travels.

To provide a continual source of commands to the robot, Xavier set up a web page in which users throughout the world could view the robot’s progress and command its behavior.

Xavier is built on top of a 24 inches diameter base from Real World Interface. The commercial base is four-wheeled synchro-drive mechanism that allows for independent control of the translational and rotational velocities.

Xavier also has a speaker and speech to text card. Control, perception, and planning are carried out on two 200 MHz Pentium computers, running Linux. A 486 laptop, also running Linux, sits on top of the robot and provides for graphical display and communication to the outside world via a Wavelan wireless Ethernet system. The three on board computers are connected to each other via thin-wire Ethernet.

Xavier differs from most other web-based robots in that it is mobile and autonomous. Mobility impacts web-based robots because the bandwidth achievable by radio modems is rather limited. Thus real-time visual feedback and control is often difficult to achieve, especially if the workspace of robots is a large area so that radio coverage becomes a factor. Also battery power is limited, so the robot can operate only a few hours per day.

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