Visualization System Reads Robots' 'Thoughts' for Better Autonomous Vehicles

A new visualization system developed by MIT combines ceiling-mounted projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot's intentions in real time. The researchers have dubbed the system "'measurable virtual reality' (MVR) - a spin on conventional virtual reality that's designed to visualize a robot's perceptions and understanding of the world," says Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi of MIT's Aerospace Controls Lab. The researchers say the system may help speed up the development of self-driving cars, package-delivering drones, and other autonomous, route-planning vehicles. The team initially conceived of the system in response to feedback from visitors to their lab. During demonstrations of robotic missions, it was often difficult for people to understand why robots chose certain actions. The engineers mounted 18 motion-capture cameras on the ceiling to track multiple robotic vehicles simultaneously. They then developed computer software that visually renders 'hidden' information, such as a robot's possible routes, and its perception of an obstacle's position. They projected this information on the ground in real time, as physical robots operated.