Our research is fundamentally centered around the task of navigation for mobile robots in unknown environments.This is referred to as simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, where a robot is tasked with building a map and concurrently using that map to situating itself within that map to achieve its mission.
Incredible progress has been made in this field in the last 25 years. However, significant challenges still exist, such as operating in challenging environments (such as underwater), dealing with dynamics in the world, and scalabilty to larger maps and longer time frames.
Our research focuses primarily on four themes which relate to the implementation of SLAM across multiple environments. As our name suggests, we have a strong interest in Marine Robotics where we address the challenges of localization and mapping in the underwater environment. Under our Theoretical Foundations theme we tackle fundamental problems in SLAM that are applicable across domains such as robustness, scalability, consistency, map representation and others. New commodity RGB-D cameras give coregistered color and depth imagery. Our work in this Dense Mapping area focuses on object-based representations and how these can be used to aid localization. We also have ongoing work based on using only a camera (and sometimes an IMU) to perform Visual SLAM both in indoor environments and also outdoors for applications such as driverless cars.
We have also participated in robotic competitions. The DARPA Challenges were created and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), he most prominent research organization of the United States Department of Defense, to stimulate advancements in the development of the first fully autonomous ground vehicle. In 2007, the goal of the DARPA Urban Challenge was to complete a 60 mile urban area course in under 6 hours. MIT achieved 4th place . More recently, RobotX Competition was funded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to challenge teams to develop new strategies for tackling unique and important problems in marine robotics. The joint team from MIT and Olin College was chosen as one of 15 competing teams from five nations (USA, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia) and took home first prize.
MIT's Urban Challenge Website
MIT-Olin's RobotX Website
Should you be interested in our open source code it will be made available here shortly.