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In Search of the Perfect Mobile Robot Research Platform: Introducing the ROS Integrated Segway RMP

You’re a researcher in the robotics field and you’ve got a project to complete. But before you begin your project, you need the right equipment — a mobile robot research platform that can do what you need it to do, and in a way that maximizes value and minimizes costs.

In Search of the Perfect Mobile Robot Research Platform

This scenario sounds familiar to any researcher scrambling to start a project in a university setting (and it’s not much different for those in start-ups, either). In these days of tight funding and increasingly restrictive development timeframes, researchers require custom mobile robots that can quickly integrate with existing hardware and software. A good mobile robot research platform needs to be reliable and integrate with ROS (Robot Operating System) so the user can leverage open source software libraries. What’s more, your mobile robot research platform needs to be flexible to accommodate future research projects. These capabilities are becoming increasingly critical in an era of elusive research grants. (In 2013, research application success rates at The National Institutes of Health, as one example, plunged to a historic low, with an overall success rate of only 16.8 percent.)

So your needs are clear. You have to spend grant money wisely. What you’re looking for — a mobile robot research platform capable of autonomous navigation, 3D mapping and computer vision, working on an open source robotic operating system — needs to fit your budget, get up and running within a short amount of time, and it needs to have out-of-the-box capabilities. Most importantly, it’s got to have some flexibility.

Introducing the ROS Capable Segway RMP Line

Fortunately, Stanley Innovation offers the most innovative and flexible mobile robot research platforms on the market today with the new Segway RMPs integrated with ROS.

The Segway RMP is the most powerful, scalable, reliable and proven mobile robotic platform. Through its technology license, Stanley engineers modified the RMP embedded architecture to work seamlessly with ROS. Stanley also developed a ROS stack for RMP so researchers do not have to spend time developing low-level capabilities in ROS. Stanley Innovation also owns proprietary software libraries and hardware designs for preconfigured integration between RMP and peripheral technologies.

Researchers can leverage ROS to integrate RMP with sensors to perform navigation tasks. Stanley’s created the new ROS Integrated RMP line to provide the highest functionality and navigation accuracy possible at the lowest cost, while also delivering platforms researchers could use for multiple future projects.

The Right Choice — Which ROS RMP Integration Level Is Right for You?

Stanley Innovation offers three distinct levels of ROS integration with the Segway RMP (Robotic Mobility Platform). Each level provides a different set of functionality and includes different hardware and sensors:

ROS Capable: Our lowest cost ROS RMP systems, these provide the robustness of the Segway RMP propulsion system and leverage the years of development and testing that went into designing the Segway personal transporter.

Out of the box capabilities:

  • The platform will send and receive ROS compatible messages via the provided ROS driver, but since there is no computer included, the user needs to do some work to get the RMP driving around without a tether.
  • Although a computer isn’t provided, the robot’s onboard power supplies are setup and ready for the addition of a ROS compatible computer. The RMP provides a safe shutdown feature that allows for an onboard computer to safely shutdown to prevent file system corruption.

ROS Enabled: These systems build upon the ROS Capable system adding a high performance ruggedized computer with all the ROS drivers necessary to communicate with the RMP, already installed.

Out of the box capabilities:

  • Upon start-up, the ROS core starts receiving and parsing messages from the RMP. A development environment is installed with all the tools required to build and install new ROS packages is provided.
  • If the provided Virtual Box OCU is installed on another computer and a wireless connection is established between the two computers, then the platform can be driven around.

ROS Integrated Solution: These systems have all the features of the ROS Enabled, but include all the sensors, drivers, and software necessary to provide high-level autonomous behavior and map-building. While each of these systems can be customized, SI has a library of sensors, manipulators, and displays that can be easily configured and installed.

Out of the box capabilities:

  • These systems come complete with all the required sensors mounted, wired, and drivers installed into the powerful ruggedized computer. ROS is installed and all the drivers are fully tested to work with all the sensors.

Onboard PC comes pre-configured with:

  • Drivers for all onboard sensors
  • Full robot URDF with meshes, robot state publisher, and joint state publisher for accurate transforms
  • Multi-Stage localization EKF using odometry, IMU, GPS, visual odometry
  • SLAM with GMAPPING, and LOAM_Velodyne/OCTOMAP
  • AMCL indoor localization
  • GPS outdoor localization
  • Tele-operation with cmd_vel YOCS_mux
  • Guarded motion; semi-autonomous tele-operation
  • Global and local navigation configuration for indoor and outdoor autonomous navigation
  • 3D voxel based costmap for local and global path planning
  • Move_base navigation_goal node for executing navigation between predefined map coordinates gathered from KMZ (GoogleEarth) or RVIZ

In addition to these three solutions, Stanley Innovation can also design and build custom ROS RMPs to fit your specific project needs. Our engineers love to solve problems for our customers. Contact us today to learn more about Segway RMPs.

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