Posted October 15, 1998 at 9:00 am No Comments
Every April during Spring Carnival, the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science invites undergraduates and other members of the Carnegie Mellon community to participate in the annual “Mobot Slalom Race”.  Participants build and race mobile autonomous robotic vehicles (“MObile roBOTs”) along a slalom-type course on the paved walk in front of Wean Hall.  The course consists of a series of gates connected by a wavy, painted stripe. Vehicles are judged on their ability to navigate sequentially through the gates. mobot_logo3.gif (6087 bytes)

The Fifth Annual Mobot Slalom Race
will be held on April 16, 1999.

This year I decided to enter the competition, and for the last few days I’ve been hard at work building, testing, and revising my mobot.  I could post some photos here, I don’t want to give away all of my “trade secrets”.  Instead, I’d like to share with you a design for a “next-generation” mobot that I believe I’ll be building next year, once I’ve gained a foothold into the mobot arena with my current design.

mobot1.gif (7079 bytes)

The Hoverbot 5000,
a next-generation mobot.

The secret behind this mobot is its hovering capability.  Since it always stays a few inches above the ground, it won’t run into problems when it encounters bumps, cracks, hills, or debris.The mobot has bottom thrusters for lift and side thrusters to navigate in multiple directions.

mobot2.gif (6426 bytes)

Phase I: Deployment of
slave probe squadron.

The first thing that the mobot does is deploy a small fleet of probe droids.  The probes are launched in many directions with powerful rocket engines.  The probes contain digital cameras, image processing circuitry, differential GPS position tracking units, inclinometers, and radio transmitters.
mobot3.gif (12611 bytes)

Phase II: Data collection
and transmission.

Once the probes reach a sufficient height, they take a series of digital photographs from different angles.  Along with each photograph, altitude and angle information are measured and stored.Once enough data has been collected, information is sorted and transmitted back to the mobot “mothership” via a radio signal.  The probe rocket then self-destructs in a fiery ball of flame.
mobot4.gif (5603 bytes)

Phase III: Data processing.

The powerful central computer on the mobot mothership analyses the vast collection of data received from the probe droids.  It then uses image processing algorithms and statistical modeling techniques to generate a complex map of the course layout, accurate to the finest detail.
mobot5.gif (5220 bytes)

Phase IV: Course navigation.

Naturally, once the map is generated, the mobot has no problem using it to navigate through the course rapidly and with extreme accuracy.  Victory is virtually guaranteed.

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