Transforming a Quadruped into a Guide Robot for the Visually Impaired: Formalizing Wayfinding, Interaction Modeling, and Safety MechanismDownload PDF

Published: 30 Aug 2023, Last Modified: 17 Oct 2023CoRL 2023 PosterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Assistive Robot, Autonomous Navigation, Interaction Modeling
TL;DR: This paper discusses principles and practical solutions for developing a robot guide dog, which needs to learn how to safely guide humans like a real guide dog.
Abstract: This paper explores the principles for transforming a quadrupedal robot into a guide robot for individuals with visual impairments. A guide robot has great potential to resolve the limited availability of guide animals that are accessible to only two to three percent of the potential blind or visually impaired (BVI) users. To build a successful guide robot, our paper explores three key topics: (1) formalizing the navigation mechanism of a guide dog and a human, (2) developing a data-driven model of their interaction, and (3) improving user safety. First, we formalize the wayfinding task of the human-guide robot team using Markov Decision Processes based on the literature and interviews. Then we collect real human-robot interaction data from three visually impaired and six sighted people and develop an interaction model called the "Delayed Harness" to effectively simulate the navigation behaviors of the team. Additionally, we introduce an action shielding mechanism to enhance user safety by predicting and filtering out dangerous actions. We evaluate the developed interaction model and the safety mechanism in simulation, which greatly reduce the prediction errors and the number of collisions, respectively. We also demonstrate the integrated system on an AlienGo robot with a rigid harness, by guiding users over 100+ meter trajectories.
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