Teller, S., Walter, M.R., Antone, M., Correa, A., Davis, R.,
Fletcher, L., Frazzoli, E., Glass, J., How, J.P., Huang, A.S.,
Jeon, J.H., Karaman, S., Luders, B., Roy, N., and Sainath, T.,
A Voice-Commandable Robotic Forklift Working Alongside Humans
in Minimally-Prepared Outdoor Environments. Proceedings
of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
(ICRA), Anchorage, Alaska, May 2010.
One long-standing challenge in robotics is the realization of mobile autonomous robots able to operate safely in existing human workplaces in a way that their presence is accepted by the human occupants. We describe the development of a multi-ton robotic forklift intended to operate alongside human personnel, handling palletized materials within existing, busy, semi-structured outdoor storage facilities.
The system has three principal novel characteristics. The first is a multimodal tablet that enables human supervisors to use speech and pen-based gestures to assign tasks to the forklift, including manipulation, transport, and placement of palletized cargo. Second, the robot operates in minimally-prepared, semi-structured environments, in which the forklift handles variable palletized cargo using only local sensing (and no reliance on GPS), and transports it while interacting with other moving vehicles. Third, the robot operates in close proximity to people, including its human supervisor, other pedestrians who may cross or block its path, and forklift operators who may climb inside the robot and operate it manually. This is made possible by novel interaction mechanisms that facilitate safe, effective operation around people.
We describe the architecture and implementation of the system, indicating how real-world operational requirements motivated the development of the key subsystems, and provide qualitative and quantitative descriptions of the robot operating in real settings.