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We exploit the complementary strengths of vision and proprioception to achieve point goal navigation in a legged robot. Legged systems are capable of traversing more complex terrain than wheeled robots, but to fully exploit this capability, we need the high-level path planner in the navigation system to be aware of the walking capabilities of the low-level locomotion policy on varying terrains. We achieve this by using proprioceptive feedback to estimate the safe operating limits of the walking policy, and to sense unexpected obstacles and terrain properties like smoothness or softness of the ground that may be missed by vision. The navigation system uses onboard cameras to generate an occupancy map and a corresponding cost map to reach the goal. The FMM (Fast Marching Method) planner then generates a target path. The velocity command generator takes this as input to generate the desired velocity for the locomotion policy using as input additional constraints, from the safety advisor, of unexpected obstacles and terrain determined speed limits. We show superior performance compared to wheeled robot (LoCoBot) baselines, and other baselines which have disjoint high-level planning and low-level control. We also show the real-world deployment of our system on a quadruped robot with onboard sensors and compute. Videos at https://navigation-locomotion.github.io/camera-ready

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Accurate and complete terrain maps enhance the awareness of autonomous robots and enable safe and optimal path planning. Rocks and topography often create occlusions and lead to missing elevation information in the Digital Elevation Map (DEM). Currently, these occluded areas are either fully avoided during motion planning or the missing values in the elevation map are filled-in using traditional interpolation, diffusion or patch-matching techniques. These methods cannot leverage the high-level terrain characteristics and the geometric constraints of line of sight we humans use intuitively to predict occluded areas. We introduce a self-supervised learning approach capable of training on real-world data without a need for ground-truth information to reconstruct the occluded areas in the DEMs. We accomplish this by adding artificial occlusion to the incomplete elevation maps constructed on a real robot by performing ray casting. We first evaluate a supervised learning approach on synthetic data for which we have the full ground-truth available and subsequently move to several real-world datasets. These real-world datasets were recorded during exploration of both structured and unstructured terrain with a legged robot, and additionally in a planetary scenario on Lunar analogue terrain. We state a significant improvement compared to the baseline methods both on synthetic terrain and for the real-world datasets. Our neural network is able to run in real-time on both CPU and GPU with suitable sampling rates for autonomous ground robots. We motivate the applicability of reconstructing occlusion in elevation maps with preliminary motion planning experiments.

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Accurate and complete terrain maps enhance the awareness of autonomous robots and enable safe and optimal path planning. Rocks and topography often create occlusions and lead to missing elevation information in the Digital Elevation Map (DEM). Currently, these occluded areas are either fully avoided during motion planning or the missing values in the elevation map are filled-in using traditional interpolation, diffusion or patch-matching techniques. These methods cannot leverage the high-level terrain characteristics and the geometric constraints of line of sight we humans use intuitively to predict occluded areas. We introduce a self-supervised learning approach capable of training on real-world data without a need for ground-truth information to reconstruct the occluded areas in the DEMs. We accomplish this by adding artificial occlusion to the incomplete elevation maps constructed on a real robot by performing ray casting. We first evaluate a supervised learning approach on synthetic data for which we have the full ground-truth available and subsequently move to several real-world datasets. These real-world datasets were recorded during exploration of both structured and unstructured terrain with a legged robot, and additionally in a planetary scenario on Lunar analogue terrain. We state a significant improvement compared to the baseline methods both on synthetic terrain and for the real-world datasets. Our neural network is able to run in real-time on both CPU and GPU with suitable sampling rates for autonomous ground robots. We motivate the applicability of reconstructing occlusion in elevation maps with preliminary motion planning experiments.

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