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Social Navigation: Context is King

David V. Lu and William D. Smart.
In "Proceedings of the International Conference on Social Robotics Workshop on Embodied Communication of Goals and Intentions", Bristol, UK, 2013.

Many navigation systems, including the ubiquitous ROS navigation stack, perform path-planning on a single costmap, in which the majority of information is stored in a single grid. This approach is quite successful at generating collision-free paths of minimal length, but it can struggle in dynamic, people-filled environments when the values in the costmap expand beyond occupied or free space. We have created and implemented a new method called layered costmaps, which work by separating the processing of costmap data into semantically-separated layers. Each layer tracks one type of obstacle or constraint, and then modifies a master costmap which is used for the path planning. We show how the algorithm can be integrated with the open-source ROS navigation stack, and how our approach is easier to fine-tune to specific environmental contexts than the existing monolithic one. Our design also results in faster path planning in practical use, and exhibits a cleaner separation of concerns that the original architecture. The new algorithm also makes it possible to represent complex cost values in order to create navigation behavior for a wide range of contexts.

@inproceedings{icsr2013ws,
  author = {Lu, David V. and Smart, William D.},
  title = {Social Navigation: Context is King},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the International Conference on Social Robotics Workshop on Embodied Communication of Goals and Intentions},
  address = {Bristol, UK},
  year = {2013}
}