Mobile robotic technology and its application in various sectors is currently an area of high interest. Research in this field promises advanced developments and novelties in many aspects. Applications of mobile robotic technology in public spaces can be found in a field that we informally term “robots in exhibitions”. In this context, robots can offer alternative ways for interactive access to exhibition spaces. Two EU funded projects, namely TOURBOT and WebFAIR, addressed the above goal. TOURBOT started January 2000 and ended successfully February 2002; it pursued the development of an interactive tour-guide robot able to provide individual access to museums’ exhibits over the Internet. The results of TOURBOT were demonstrated through the installation and operation of the system in the real environment of the three museums that participated in the project as well as other interested organizations. WebFAIR started December 2001 and ended May 2004. WebFAIR built on TOURBOT results and extended relevant developments to the more demanding environments of trade shows. Additionally, WebFAIR introduced tele-conferencing between the remote user and on-site attendants and employed a multi-robot platform, facilitating thus simultaneous robot control by multiple users. In order to cope with the requirements imposed by the specific application areas of TOURBOT and WebFAIR, a number of scientific, technological and technical issues were addressed. Several techniques to cope with specific problems have been developed in the above mentioned projects. Among them are techniques for mapping large environments, an obstacle-avoidance technique that relies on laser-vision fusion to detect objects that are invisible to the laser scanner, and an approach to filter out range measurements coming from moving persons in the process of map construction. A very important factor for the acceptance of a robotic tour-guide by the broader public is the degree to which the system smoothly interacts with both web and on-site visitors. For this reason, in both projects special emphasis was put in the development of appropriate user interfaces. We also addressed aspects of the developed interfaces, such as a speech interface for on-site users and a flexible web-interface with enhanced visualization capabilities for remote users.
Lefkos gives a tour-guide to the visitors of the FHW (Foundation of the Hellenic World)
Several people have been involved; please refer to the project web pages.
The electronic versions of the above publications can be downloaded from my publications page.