In the field of robotics, there has recently been a tremendous progress in the development of autonomous robots that offer various services to their users. Typical services include support of elderly people, cleaning, transportation and delivery tasks, exploration of unaccessible hazardous environments, or surveillance. Most of the systems developed so far, however, are restricted to indoor scenarios, non-urban outdoor environments, or road usage with cars. There is serious lack of capabilities of mobile robots to navigate safely in highly populated outdoor environments. This ability, however, is a key competence for a series of robotic applications.
The goal of the EUROPA project is to bridge this gap and to develop the foundations for service robots designed to autonomously navigate in urban environments outdoors as well as in shopping malls and shops to provide various services to users including guidance, delivery, and transportation. EUROPA will develop and apply sophisticated probabilistic scene interpretation techniques to deal with the unpredictable and changing environments. Based on data gathered with its sensors, the robot will acquire a detailed model of the environment, detect and track moving objects in the environment, adapt its navigation behavior according to the current situation, and communicate with its users in a natural way, even remotely. Key innovations of the project are made by robustly and reliably addressing the autonomous navigation problem in complex and populated environments, the ability to build appropriate spatial models, and by reasoning about them based on the verbal and natural interaction with users. EUROPA is targeted at developing novel technologies that will open new perspectives for commercial applications of service robots in the future.
To validate the concepts developed in the project, the EUROPA robot will be deployed in populated urban environments such as the downtown area of Zurich, Switzerland, to solve a series of tasks including transportation and guidance.
For this project our group has contributed a multi-person tracking module that detects and tracks pedestrains over time and so supports the planning system of the robot in avoiding dynamic objects. Our tracking module runs in real time on a single GPU-enabled laptop. Some of the tracking results in a crowded pedestrian zone in Freiburg are presented in the video below.