NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94035
This project is a collaboration with the Life in the Atacama project at Carnegie Mellon. The goal is to develop the capability for an autonomous rover to travel one kilometer and estimate its position to within 5% of the distance traveled. This will allow scientists to use orbital or descent imagery to direct the rover to far away science sites and get within 50 meters of the intended site. This is achieved by the development of sensing hardware (a sun tracker) and position estimation software that combines information from the sun tracker, odometry, and onboard cameras to track the robot's motion.
Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity require lots of operator intervention in order to navigate to a target selected by a scientist. With limited communication windows, it can take the rover three days to move 10 meters and place an instrument against a sample. The Single Cycle Instrument Placement project is developing tools that will enable a rover to autonomously navigate to a rock, assess the rock, plan the motion of the instrument arm, and place the instrument.
Sprit and Opportunity are carrying microscopic imagers to capture very high resolution images of rocks and soil. The instrument has a very narrow depth of field, so as the camera moves toward a target things go in and out of focus. The MI Toolkit is a set of tools for merging the sections of the images that are in focus, and in some cases to produce 3D models of the rocks and soil samples.
2D tracking relies on the visual appearance of objects, and often requires some constancy to the appearance as the camera moves. 3D tracking makes use of shape or position information, but is harder to acquire. This project was an effort to use a combination of techniques to improve the robustness and accuracy of visual tracking using both 2D appearance and 3D position and shape.