Feature Update: Pepper's Improved Navigation Skills
Navigation for our robots is an important function that allows them to move with full autonomy. This is why the development team at SoftBank Robotics was hard at work to push this function to even further heights, concluding in the newest update for Pepper: NAOqi 2.9.5 Navigation.
As seen in the video above, Pepper creates a real map in VSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) and can also memorize points of interest, which allows him to know his exact location and move around the mapped area without issues. In this update, the navigation function is more fluid and also more resilient to any interference in the environment, that is to say, that Pepper is more easily able to continue moving even if he is interrupted by a person, etc. Another important update to the navigation function is that Pepper can now map out even large spaces. Before this update, the software was only able to map out a path up to 35 meters long. Now, Pepper is able to map a path longer than 200 meters (depending on Pepper's speed during mapping). This also gives Pepper the capability to move over 100 meters, previously limited to 30 meters.
The development team also worked on improving mapping functionality for navigation. Pepper can now map areas with precision depending on the speed at which he is pushed during mapping. According to our Field Application Engineer, Thomas Reny, “The slower you push Pepper during mapping, the larger and more precise the map data will be. However, we obtained very good performances from pushing Pepper at a normal walking pace.” Furthermore, there is now the ability to have a visual representation of the charted area, which was not possible in previous versions. Another important feature attached to having a visual representation of the map is the ability to see the progress of the mapping in real-time. Finally, mapped out areas can be expanded on without the need of having to redo them from scratch.
In regards to the development of this new update, the team of engineers finds that this is a big update. According to Thomas, “It’s a huge step in navigation, compared to previous versions. It now allows us to push it to production environments. Having expanded Pepper’s movement and mapping capabilities to at least 4 times what it was previously possible, is indeed an amazing development.”