Australian National University
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- Offer Profile
|The Robotic Systems Group in the Department of
Information Engineering at the College of Engineering and Computer Science
follows a long standing commitment to real world robotics. It was founded in
1996 by Alex Zelinksy who is currently the director of the CSIRO Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre.
Current research fields are robust
autonomous robots in several real world scenarios, as well as shape memory alloy
actuators, rigid body dynamics as well as distributed control and communication.
All details are found on the specific project pages.
There are multiple ways in which you can become involved in the activities in
our group. There are always possibilities for student theses and projects.
Honours, Masters, PhD applicants will find a challenging and demaning range of
topics here which will bring academic knowledge in contact with physical
The group also has a tradition of commercialization projects. The up to date
largest of those companies grown out of the the group is Seeing Machines which
started back in the year 2000 and employs more than 50 people today.
Serafina - Small Autonomous Submersibles
The Serafina project explores the potentials of multiple, small, fully autonomous, but
The Serafina project at the Australian National University explores the
potentials of multiple, small, fully autonomous, but organized submersibles.
While being small and therefore offering only limited payloads, the full
school of submersibles offers possibilities far beyond any individual
- A school of submersibles which allows for fault-tolerant, scalable
coverage (in terms of exploration, searching, transportation, or
monitoring) of ocean spaces, while:
- The number of boats employed in such a school of submersibles
should be open.
- Functionality of individual submersibles should be adaptive
according to their current physical (relative) position in the
- Active and passive localization of individuals with respect to
neighbouring submersibles as well as the whole group with respect to the
- Dynamical communication and routing protocols, which explicitely
consider and adapt the current knowledge about the physical
3-dimentional positions (including momentum and orientations) of
- Bridging some more gaps between current dynamical systems theory and
the reality of actual sensor spaces and timing constraints.
- Specifications (maximum ratings):
Forward speed: > 1 m/s
Vertical speed: > 0.5 m/s
Roll speed: > 360 °/s
Pitch speed: > 180 °/s
Yaw speed: > 90 °/s
- Length of main hull: 400 mm
Length overall: 455 mm
Diameter of main hull: 100 mm
Width overall: 210 mm
Height overall: 140 mm
- Long wave radio
Carrier frequency: 122 kHz
Data rate: 1024-8192 bits/s
Range: < 6 m
Shape Memory Alloys
- Project Description:
This project aims to achieve fast, accurate, motion and force control of
actuators based on shape memory alloy (SMA). Wires made from SMA can be
stretched easily when cool, but contract forcibly to their original length
when heated. We use thin Flexinol (tm) wires, which are made of a
nickel-titanium SMA called nitinol. As the wires can only pull, we usually
use them in antagonistic pairs. The big challenge is that SMAs behave in a
highly nonlinear manner, and exhibit substantial hysteresis. This makes them
very difficult to control. This project is therefore mainly about designing
clever control systems that will deliver fast, accurate motions and forces
from these tricky SMAs.
- We have invented a new rapid heating algorithm that roughly doubles
the speed of SMA actuators, and also protects them from being
- We have demonstrated that SMA can respond at frequencies of 1kHz and
higher, by building an SMA loudspeaker. Yes, SMA really can respond at
audio frequencies, and
here is the audio to prove it!
- We have obtained a gain/phase model of the high-frequency dynamics
of SMA. According to this model, the phase response is independent of
stress and strain.
- We have developed a force control system that is accurate to better
than 1mN in a +/−3N range.
Our SMA-actuated 2-DoF pantograph robot
The SMA loudspeaker
Our new testbed for force and motion control experiments
Smart Cars (In collaboration with: NICTA)
- Cars offer unique challenges in human-machine
interaction. Vehicles are becoming, in effect, robotic systems that
collaborate with the driver.
As the automated systems become more capable, how best to manage the
on-board human resources is an intriguing question. Combining the strengths
of machines and humans, and mitigating their shortcomings is the goal of
With mobile computing already encroaching into vehicles, this project aims
to develop intelligent systems and technologies that will truly aid the
driver and enhance road safety.
The research is centred around road context awareness through computational
vision and supplementary sensors. Road awareness is then combined with
driver gaze monitoring to demonstrate holistic, intuitive driver support.
Robust, real-time multi-cue, multi-hypothesis lane
Real-time stereo pedestrian detection.
Real-time stereo panoramic blind-spot monitoring.
Real-time stereo road object detection.
Real-time speed sign Driver Assistance System using
Road Scene visual monotony detection.
Active Vision for road scene understanding.
Human Machine Interface (Old projects -- completed more than 5 years ago)
- Stereo Tracking for Head Pose and Gaze Point
A system has been developed which tracks the pose of a person's head and
estimates their gaze-point in real-time.
Visual Interface for Human-Robot Interaction
In this project a visual interface is developed which will allow the visual
and tactile interaction between a human operator and a robot arm. Aspects of
this project are real-time computer vision and open-loop force control for
safe interaction between a manipulator and a person.
A Visual Interface for Human-Robot Interaction
Todays robots are rigid, insensitive machines used mostly in the
manufacturing industry. Their interaction with humans is restricted to
teach-and-play operations to simplify the programming of the desired
trajectories. Once programmed gates to the robot cell must be shut and
locked before the robots can begin their work. Safety usually means the
strict separation of robots and humans. This is required due to the lack of
sensors in the robots to detect humans in their environment and the
closed-loop position control which will use maximum force to achieve the
The exclusivity of humans and robots strongly limits the applications of
robots. Only areas where the environment can be totally controlled are
feasible for the use of robots. Also tasks must be completely achieved by
the robot. Situations where the decision and planning capability of a
supervisor is required must not arise since such help is not available due
to the absence of humans.
Robotic systems that are designed to actually work together with a human
would open a wide range of applications ranging from supporting high load
handling systems in manufacturing and construction to systems dedicated for
the interaction with humans like helping hands for disabled and elderly.
Complex tasks and non-repetitive action sequences that will require
supervision by human operators could be executed with the support of robots
but guided by the operator (supervised autonomy). Such systems would need to
have two main features that todays robots are lacking:
- A natural human-robot interface that allows the operator to interact
with the robot in a ``human-like'' way and
- sensors and adequate control strategies that allow the safe
operation of the robot in the presence of humans in its workspace.
Stereo Face Tracking and Gaze Point Estimation
- Automatic tracking of the human face has been used for a
variety of applications, such as identification and gesture recognition. We
have developed a system which not only tracks the subject's face in real
time, but also estimates where the subject is looking.
As people interact face-to-face on a dailey basis they are constantly aware
of where the other person's eyes are looking, indeed eye contact is a
crucial part of effective communication. A computer which can 'read' our
eyes and tell what we are looking at is a definite step towards more
sophisticated human-machine interaction.
A vision system capable of tracking the human face and estimating the
person's gaze point in real time offers many possiblilities for enhancing
human-machine interaction. A key feature is such a system is its entirely
non-intrusive nature, enabling people to be observed in their 'natural'
state. It does not require special light shone on the target or that the
target wear any special devices.
- monitoring where drivers look while driving to provide information
for improved ergonomics and safer vehicle design.
- a computer mouse could be replaced by a vision system which moved
the cursor where ever the user looked on the screen, this would be
particularly useful for the disabled.
- a robot could learn about a new environment from an instructor who
simply looked at obstacles and identified them.
- by observing operator's movements work areas could be redesigned
- a portable robotic video camera could be built to focus and film
where ever the operator looked.