High-Performance 3D Articulated Robot Display

In the domain of telerobotic operations, the primary challenge facing the operator is to understand the state of the robotic platform. One key aspect of understanding the state is to visualize the physical location and configuration of the platform. As there is a wide variety of mobile robots, the requirements for visualizing their configurations vary diversely across different platforms. There can also be diversity in the mechanical mobility, such as wheeled, tracked, or legged mobility over surfaces.

Adaptable 3D articulated robot visualization software can accommodate a wide variety of robotic platforms and environments. The visualization has been used for surface, aerial, space, and water robotic vehicle visualization during field testing. It has been used to enable operations of wheeled and legged surface vehicles, and can be readily adapted to facilitate other mechanical mobility solutions.

The 3D visualization can render an articulated 3D model of a robotic platform for any environment. Given the model, the software receives real-time telemetry from the avionics system onboard the vehicle and animates the robot visualization to reflect the telemetered physical state. This is used to track the position and attitude in real time to monitor the progress of the vehicle as it traverses its environment. It is also used to monitor the state of any or all articulated elements of the vehicle, such as arms, legs, or control surfaces. The visualization can also render other sorts of telemetered states visually, such as stress or strains that are measured by the avionics. Such data can be used to color or annotate the virtual vehicle to indicate nominal or off-nominal states during operation.

The visualization is also able to render the simulated environment where the vehicle is operating. For surface and aerial vehicles, it can render the terrain under the vehicle as the avionics sends it location information (GPS, odometry, or star tracking), and locate the vehicle over or on the terrain correctly. For long traverses over terrain, the visualization can stream in terrain piecewise in order to maintain the current area of interest for the operator without incurring unreasonable resource constraints on the computing platform. The visualization software is designed to run on laptops that can operate in field-testing environments without Internet access, which is a frequently encountered situation when testing in remote locations that simulate planetary environments such as Mars and other planetary bodies.

This work was done by Mark W. Powell, Recaredo J. Torres, David S. Mittman, James A. Kurien, and Lucy Abramyan of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47945

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High-Performance 3D Articulated Robot Display (reference NPO-47945) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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