Efficient detection of glass obstacles when using a laser rangefinder

Xun Wang, JianGuo Wang, Detecting glass in Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 88, February 2017, Pages 97-103, ISSN 0921-8890, DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2016.11.003.

Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) has become one of key technologies used in advanced robot platform. The current state-of-art indoor SLAM with laser scanning rangefinders can provide accurate realtime localisation and mapping service to mobile robotic platforms such as PR2 robot. In recent years, many modern building designs feature large glass panels as one of the key interior fitting elements, e.g. large glass walls. Due to the transparent nature of glass panels, laser rangefinders are unable to produce accurate readings which causes SLAM functioning incorrectly in these environments. In this paper, we propose a simple and effective solution to identify glass panels based on the specular reflection of laser beams from the glass. Specifically, we use a simple technique to detect the reflected light intensity profile around the normal incident angle to the glass panel. Integrating this glass detection method with an existing SLAM algorithm, our SLAM system is able to detect and localise glass obstacles in realtime. Furthermore, the tests we conducted in two office buildings with a PR2 robot show the proposed method can detect ∼ 95% of all glass panels with no false positive detection. The source code of the modified SLAM with glass detection is released as a open source ROS package along with this paper.

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