Extending a networked robot system to include humans, tiny devices, and everyday objects
Sammanfattning: In networked robot systems (NRS), robots and robotic devices are distributed in the environment; typically tasks are performed by cooperation and coordination of such multiple networked components. NRS offer advantages over monolithic systems in terms of modularity, flexibility and cost effectiveness, and they are thus becoming a mainstream approach to the inclusion of robotic solutions in everyday environments.The components of a NRS are usually robots and sensors equipped with rich computational and communication facilities. In this thesis, we argue that the capabilities of a NRS would greatly increase if it could also accommodate among its nodes simpler entities, like small ubiquitous sensing and actuation devices, home appliances, or augmented everyday objects. For instance, a domestic robot needs to manipulate food items and interact with appliances. Such a robot would benefit from the ability to exchange information with those items and appliances in a direct way, in the same way as with other networked robots and sensors.Combining such highly heterogeneous devices inside one NRS is challenging, and one of the major challenges is to provide a common communication and collaboration infrastructure. In the field of NRS, this infrastructure is commonly provided by a shared middleware. Unfortunately, current middlewares lack the generality needed to allow heterogeneous entities such as robots, simple ubiquitous devices and everyday objects to coexist in the same system.In this thesis we show how an existing middleware for NRS can be extended to include three new types of “citizens” in the system, on peer with the other robots. First, we include computationally simple embedded devices, like ubiquitous sensors and actuators, by creating a fully compatible tiny version of the existing robotic middleware. Second, we include augmented everyday objects or home appliances which are unable to run the middleware on board, by proposing a generic design pattern based on the notion of object proxy. Finally,we go one step further and include humans as nodes in the NRS by defining the notion of human proxy. While there exist a few other NRS which are able to include both robots and simple embedded devices in the same system, the use of proxies to include everyday objects and humans in a generic way is a unique feature of this work.In order to verify and validate the above concepts, we have implemented them in the Peis-Ecology NRS model. We report a number of experiments based on this implementation, which provide both quantitative and qualitative evaluations of its performance, reliability, and interoperability.
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