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  1. In this paper we derive a new capability for robots to measure relative direction, or Angle-of-Arrival (AOA), to other robots, while operating in non-line-of-sight and unmapped environments, without requiring external infrastructure. We do so by capturing all of the paths that a WiFi signal traverses as it travels from a transmitting to a receiving robot in the team, which we term as an AOA profile. The key intuition behind our approach is to emulate antenna arrays in the air as a robot moves freely in 2D or 3D space. The small differences in the phase and amplitude of WiFi signals are thus processed with knowledge of a robots’ local displacements (often provided via inertial sensors) to obtain the profile, via a method akin to Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The main contribution of this work is the development of i) a framework to accommodate arbitrary 2D and 3D trajectories, as well as continuous mobility of both transmitting and receiving robots, while computing AOA profiles between them and ii) an accompanying analysis that provides a lower bound on variance of AOA estimation as a function of robot trajectory geometry that is based on the Cramer Rao Bound and antenna array theory. Thismore »is a critical distinction with previous work on SAR that restricts robot mobility to prescribed motion patterns, does not generalize to the full 3D space, and/or requires transmitting robots to be static during data acquisition periods. In fact, we find that allowing robots to use their full mobility in 3D space while performing SAR, results in more accurate AOA profiles and thus better AOA estimation. We formally characterize this observation as the informativeness of the trajectory; a computable quantity for which we derive a closed form. All theoretical developments are substantiated by extensive simulation and hardware experiments on air/ground robot platforms. Our experimental results bolster our theoretical findings, demonstrating that 3D trajectories provide enhanced and consistent accuracy, with AOA error of less than 10 deg for 95% of trials. We also show that our formulation can be used with an off-the-shelf trajectory estimation sensor (Intel RealSense T265 tracking camera), for estimating the robots’ local displacements, and we provide theoretical as well as empirical results that show the impact of typical trajectory estimation errors on the measured AOA. Finally, we demonstrate the performance of our system on a multi-robot task where a heterogeneous air/ground pair of robots continuously measure AOA profiles over a WiFi link to achieve dynamic rendezvous in an unmapped, 300 square meter environment with occlusions.« less
  2. This paper presents the WiFi-Sensor-for-Robotics (WSR) toolbox, an open source C++ framework. It enables robots in a team to obtain relative bearing to each other, even in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) settings which is a very challenging problem in robotics. It does so by analyzing the phase of their communicated WiFi signals as the robots traverse the environment. This capability, based on the theory developed in our prior works, is made available for the first time as an opensource tool. It is motivated by the lack of easily deployable solutions that use robots' local resources (e.g WiFi) for sensing in NLOS. This has implications for localization, ad-hoc robot networks, and security in multi-robot teams, amongst others. The toolbox is designed for distributed and online deployment on robot platforms using commodity hardware and on-board sensors. We also release datasets demonstrating its performance in NLOS and line-of-sight (LOS) settings for a multi-robot localization usecase. Empirical results show that the bearing estimation from our toolbox achieves mean accuracy of 5.10 degrees. This leads to a median error of 0.5m and 0.9m for localization in LOS and NLOS settings respectively, in a hardware deployment in an indoor office environment.
  3. We present a novel framework for collaboration amongst a team of robots performing Pose Graph Optimization (PGO) that addresses two important challenges for multi-robot SLAM: i) that of enabling information exchange "on-demand" via Active Rendezvous without using a map or the robot's location, and ii) that of rejecting outlying measurements. Our key insight is to exploit relative position data present in the communication channel between robots to improve groundtruth accuracy of PGO. We develop an algorithmic and experimental framework for integrating Channel State Information (CSI) with multi-robot PGO; it is distributed, and applicable in low-lighting or featureless environments where traditional sensors often fail. We present extensive experimental results on actual robots and observe that using Active Rendezvous results in a 64% reduction in ground truth pose error and that using CSI observations to aid outlier rejection reduces ground truth pose error by 32%. These results show the potential of integrating communication as a novel sensor for SLAM.