Robot navigate pedestrian traffic using social awareness

The engineers at MIT designed autonomous robot and were able to navigate using social awareness in offsetting pedestrian traffic while observing this common code of pedestrian behavior. This technology provides many applications to build mobile robots around hospitals, malls, and other areas with heavy traffic.

Tinuku Robot navigate pedestrian traffic using social awareness

Pedestrians follow certain social codes when navigating the alleys or crowded streets. Everyone swerves right, left, accelerates or slows footsteps, and changes pathways to avoid obstacles to come while continuing to walk forward.

"Socially aware navigation is a central capability for mobile robots operating in environments that require frequent interactions with pedestrians," says Yu Fan Chen, who leads the work as a former MIT graduate student.

"For instance, small robots could operate on sidewalks for package and food delivery. Similarly, personal mobility devices could transport people in large, crowded spaces, such as shopping malls, airports, and hospitals."

The robot must solve four major challenges are localization, perception, motion planning, and control. Robot adapt to unexpected pedestrian behavior while continuing to move in the stream and follow the typical social codes of pedestrian behavior.