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  • Robotics and Autonomous SystemsLecture 1: Introduction

    Simon Parsons

    Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of Liverpool

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    The robotics slides are heavily based on those that RolandSiegwart and Illah Nourbakhsh and provide along with theirbook:

    The agents slides are heavily based on those given to meby Mike Wooldridge and are taken from his book:

    The module information and much of the material onLeJOS was provided by Davide Grossi.

    Naturally, all errors are my responsibility.

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  • Today

    Module Information Aims and learning outcomes Contents, outline References Practical matters, assessment

    Introduction What is robotics? What are agent systems? Some examples of robots.

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    What is a robot?

    But first, what do you think?

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  • Module aims

    1 To introduce the student to the concept of an autonomousagent.

    2 To introduce the key approaches developed fordecision-making in autonomous systems.

    3 To introduce a contemporary platform for programmingagents and multiagent systems.

    4 To introduce the key issues surrounding the developmentof autonomous robots.

    5 To introduce a contemporary platform for experimentalrobotics.

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    Learning outcomes

    1 Explain the notion of an agent, how agents are distinctfrom other software paradigms (e.g., objects), and judgethe characteristics of applications that lend themselves toan agent-oriented solution

    2 Identify the key issues associated with constructing agentscapable of intelligent autonomous action

    3 Describe the main approaches taken to develop suchagents

    4 Use a contemporary agent programming platform (e.g.AgentSpeak) for developing significant software orhardware-based agents

    5 Identify key issues involved in building agents that mustsense and act within the physical world

    6 Program and deploy autonomous robots for specific tasks

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  • . . . and the following soft skills

    1 You will be able to practice how to work in groups: discussing solutions together distributing tasks and managing time giving and keeping deadlines respecting each others ideas

    2 You will be able to practice how to manage a computerscience project spanning over several weeks

    planning ahead keeping track of design challenges and choices made

    Dont underestimate the challenge of either of theseaspects.

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    Module structure

    PART 1: RoboticsPrinciples of robotics, the NXT platform and the LeJOSprogramming language.

    PART II: Autonomous systemsPrinciples of agent theory, robots viewed as agents(autonomous systems), and the Jason programminglanguage, agent coordination.

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  • Module outline

    10 weeks (of 12 weeks) 30 lectures with a mix of Theory (principles of robotics and

    agent systems) and Practice (code) 10 supervised lab sessions (1 per week) + free lab access Self study and practice (as much as needed to understand

    the material and gain mastery of the subject) Two assignments (combined weight 85%) to be carried out

    in teamsNote: This is the main assessment for the module.

    The first assignment will be published early in Week 2 Teams are decided by the lecturer and are non-negotiable The individual mark for each assignment will depend on

    the mark obtained by the team, wighted by the amount ofcontribution of the individual to the team

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    First assignment (40%) Second assignment (45%) Homework (10%) In-class quiz (5%)

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  • Peer group assessment

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    Project log

    Each group will be asked to keep a project log, madeavailable online

    The project log should contain information about, forinstance:

    which subproblems is the group tackling what solutions have been considered and how they are

    performing what problems is the group facing . . .

    It should, at the end, give an idea of the trajectory thegroup has taken towards the proposed solutions of theassignments

    I will use it to monitor how each group does and it willcontribute to the mark for each assignment.

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  • Practical matters

    Access to robots and lab: The Robot Lab will be open during the usual lab hours. You can borrow robots during Helpdesk opening hours. You will leave your student card as a deposit when you

    check out a robot. Module website:

    It will contain slides, bibliography, assignments and extramaterials and will be used for public announcementsconcerning the course

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    Agent Systems

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  • What is a robot?

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    What is a robot?

    . . . a programmable, multifunction manipulator designed tomove material, parts, tools, or specialized devices throughvariable programmed motions for the performance of avariety of tasks Robot Institute of America (1980)

    . . . [a] physical agent that performs tasks by manipulatingthe physical world Russell and Norvig (2003).

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  • What is a robot?

    The word robot was first used in Karel Capeks playRossums Universal Robots in 1920

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    What is a robot?

    Isaac Asimov coinedthe term robotics in1942.

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  • What is an agent?






    An agent is a system that is situated in some environment,and is capable of autonomous action in this environment inorder to meet its delegated objectives.

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    What is an agent?






    The fundamental question is what action(s) to take for agiven state of the environment.

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  • What is mobile robotics?

    In mobile robotics this becomes three questions:


    Where am I ? Where am I going ? How do I get there ?

    The robotics part of this course is about answering thosequestions.

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    The following are some deployed robots. From the more mundane to the more experimental.

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  • Automatic Guided Vehicle

    Used to transport motor blocks from one assembly stationto an other.

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    Automatic Guided Vehicle

    Guided by an electrical wire installed in the floor but it isalso able to leave the wire to avoid obstacles.

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  • Helpmate

    Used in hospitals for secure trans-portation of items such as medica-tion, samples (medical records, x-ray film).

    Not clear if the company (Pyxis) is still in business.

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    Another hospital delivery robot

    Experimental delivery robot evaluated by healthcarecompany Kaiser Permanente.

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  • BR700 cleaning robot

    Sold by Karcher Inc.

    The navigation systemis based on a sophis-ticated sonar systemand a gyro.

    Doesnt seem to be in production any more.

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    iRobot Roomba

    Successful robotic vacuumcleaner

    6 million sold by mid 2011

    Simple, but effective, controlstrategy

    Touch sensors

    Sonar in the more advancedmodels

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  • Pioneer inspection robot

    Teleoperated robot used to inspect the sarcophagus atChernobyl.

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    Tiburon ROV

    Teleoperated robot used by the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration for underwater exploration

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  • Sojourner

    Sojouner was deployed on Mars.

    On Mars, teleoperation is a bit of a handicap. Why?

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    Mars Yard

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  • iRobot Packbot

    A rugged, teleoperated platform for the military

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    Grey Eagle

    A UAV much used by the US military.

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  • Pulstech Forester

    First industrial like walking robot. Leg coordination isautomated, but human operator navigates.

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    Aibo entertainment robot

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  • DARPA Grand Challenge

    The Grand Challenge involved autonomous navigationthrough the desert.

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    DARPA Urban challenge

    The Urban Challenge took this into traffic.

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  • Google Car

    The Google car is intended to make this technologymainstream.

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    Unmanned vehicles

    Expect to see a range of other autonomous vehicles.

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  • Summary

    This lecture gave you the necessary information on themodule.

    It also looked at some basic ideas in the area of mobilerobotics.

    We identified the main problems to be solved. The course will cover these topics (and others).

    We also looked at some deployed robots.

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    IntroductionModule informationRobots and agentsSome examples


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