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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. We propose a new approach for traversability mapping with sparse lidar scans collected by ground vehicles, which leverages probabilistic inference to build descriptive terrain maps. Enabled by recent developments in sparse kernels, Bayesian generalized kernel inference is applied sequentially to the related problems of terrain elevation and traversability inference. The first inference step allows sparse data to support descriptive terrain modeling, and the second inference step relieves the burden typically associated with traversability computation. We explore the capabilities of the approach over a variety of data and terrain, demonstrating its suitability for online use in real-world applications.
  3. Unsupervised learning techniques, such as Bayesian topic models, are capable of discovering latent structure directly from raw data. These unsupervised models can endow robots with the ability to learn from their observations without human supervision, and then use the learned models for tasks such as autonomous exploration, adaptive sampling, or surveillance. This paper extends single-robot topic models to the domain of multiple robots. The main difficulty of this extension lies in achieving and maintaining global consensus among the unsupervised models learned locally by each robot. This is especially challenging for multi-robot teams operating in communication-constrained environments, such as marine robots. We present a novel approach for multi-robot distributed learning in which each robot maintains a local topic model to categorize its observations and model parameters are shared to achieve global consensus. We apply a combinatorial optimization procedure that combines local robot topic distributions into a globally consistent model based on topic similarity, which we find mitigates topic drift when compared to a baseline approach that matches topics naively. We evaluate our methods experimentally by demonstrating multi-robot underwater terrain characterization using simulated missions on real seabed imagery. Our proposed method achieves similar model quality under bandwidth-constraints to that achieved by modelsmore »that continuously communicate, despite requiring less than one percent of the data transmission needed for continuous communication.« less