Using Lidar Intensity for Robot Navigation

We present Multi-Layer Intensity Map, a novel 3D object representation for robot perception and autonomous navigation. They consist of multiple stacked layers of 2D grid maps each derived from reflected point cloud intensities corresponding to a certain height interval. The different layers of the intensity maps can be used to simultaneously estimate obstacles' height, solidity/density, and opacity. We demonstrate that they can help accurately differentiate obstacles that are safe to navigate through (e.g. beaded/string curtains, pliable tall grass), from ones that must be avoided (e.g. transparent surfaces such as glass walls, bushes, trees, etc.) in indoor and outdoor environments. Further, to handle narrow passages, and navigate through non-solid obstacles in dense environments, we propose an approach to adaptively inflate or enlarge the obstacles detected on intensity maps based on their solidity, and the robot's preferred velocity direction. We demonstrate these improved navigation capabilities in real-world narrow, dense environments using a real Turtlebot and Boston Dynamics Spot. We observe significant increases in success rates (up to 50 10.9 other sensor modalities.


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