The goal of the Interactive Urban Robot (IURO) project is to develop and implement methods and technologies enabling robots to navigate and interact in densely populated, unknown human-centred environments and retrieve information from human partners in order to achieve a given navigation or interaction goal.
Autonomous navigation through complex dynamic real-world scenarios is a demanding challenge for today’s mobile robots. Even for humans without map knowledge or GPS this constitutes an ambitious task in unknown environments. Present-day cognitive robotics research is still far away from enabling robots to accomplish even a basic task like navigating to designated goal locations only given symbolic identification labels of the locations. Humans have the compelling ability to consult other humans regarding required but missing directional information in order to fill such identified knowledge gaps, such as the way to a particular location “X”. Particularly, in unknown environments there will always be knowledge gaps for the robot as not everything can be pre-programmed and online learning on its own is not always a feasible or efficient solution. The ability to assess gaps in its own knowledge and to retrieve missing information from other agents like humans whenever possible is, thus, a highly desirable, yet, missing feature of today’s robots. Information exchange between humans and robots must not only be limited to robots serving information to humans, but also extended to humans supporting robots by providing specific missing information.
The video presents the results from the Interactive Urban RObot project. The developed robot IURO navigates autonomously around the city-center of Munich and commences interaction with pedestrians. IURO approaches a person and asks for help to find the way to Marienplatz, a square in the Munich city center. People grasp a microphone from IURO’s compartment and start chatting with the robot. IURO starts the conversation with a question for the counterparts mood. By emotionally adapting to the reported mood, he attains the person’s full attention and successfully retrieves the information he is looking for. Besides verbal input, IURO also asks the interaction partner to point into the direction of the Marienplatz. Obviously, people enjoy the experience to interact with an autonomous mobile robot.