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Low-Cost Range Sensing for Laptop Robots

By Alan Davidson, Ben Tribelhorn, Tommy Leung and Zach Dodds


This paper details the design, creation, and deployment of two low-cost range sensing devices for mobile robot platforms. The first is a set of sonars individually mounted on servo motors. These sensors ’ angular coverage allows for effective obstacle avoidance, but does not provide precise surface placement due to sonar’s well-understood conical response window. An inexpensive laser range finder based on a web camera and servo-mounted laser pointer provides a much more precise, but narrower, proximity detector. Taken together, this sensor suite cost less than $300, but demonstrated its considerable capabilities for reactive and deliberative spatial reasoning at the 2005 AAAI mobile robot scavenger hunt competition. Laptop-based robots offer powerful platforms for research and education at a price and maintainance level much lower than systems now in common use. Advantages of a laptop robot include a gentle learning curve in interacting with the software, the ability for students to program and use their own computers, and the capability to investigate topics on a physical agent that are less easily supported on other lowcost platforms. Also, any software, including OpenCV, Matlab, and other specialized packages, can be used onboard. We have been among the first to put laptop robots to a public test. The venue for this was the AAAI 2005 Scavenger Hunt Competition. [2] The scavenger hunt is a showcase for robotics researchers to demonstrate the abilities of their robots to find and identify objects in a dynamic environment. Objects, such as a beach ball, orange cones, a stuffed dinosaur, and bowls of different colors, were scattered around a hotel hallway. Autonomous agents attempted to report the object locations and to deliver the beach ball to a specified destination. The Harvey Mudd College team, composed of Mr. Tribelhorn, Mr. Davidson, and Dr. Dodds as well as Julian Mason and Susanna Ricco, both won this competition and received a Technical Innovatio

Year: 2011
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