Semantically-Aware Strategies for Stereo-Visual Robotic Obstacle Avoidance

Published in International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2021

Abstract: Mobile robots in unstructured, mapless environ- ments must rely on an obstacle avoidance module to navigate safely. The standard avoidance techniques estimate the locations of obstacles with respect to the robot but are unaware of the obstacles’ identities. Consequently, the robot cannot take advantage of semantic information about obstacles when mak- ing decisions about how to navigate. We propose an obstacle avoidance module that combines visual instance segmentation with a depth map to classify and localize objects in the scene. The system avoids obstacles differentially, based on the identity of the objects: for example, the system is more cautious in response to unpredictable objects such as humans. The system can also navigate closer to harmless obstacles and ignore obstacles that pose no collision danger, enabling it to navigate more efficiently. We validate our approach in two simulated environments: one terrestrial and one underwater. Results indicate that our approach is feasible and can enable more efficient navigation strategies.

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