Topological spatial relations for active visual search

Robotics and Autonomous Systems [to appear], 2012
If robots are to assume their long anticipated place by humanity's side and be of help to us in our partially structured environments, we believe that adopting human-like cognitive patterns will be valuable. Such environments are the products of human preferences, activity and thought; they are imbued with semantic meaning. In this paper we investigate qualitative spatial relations with the aim of both perceiving those semantics, and of using semantics to perceive. More specifically, in this paper we introduce general perceptual measures for two common topological spatial relations, "on" and "in", that allow a robot to evaluate object configurations, possible or actual, in terms of those relations. We also show how these spatial relations can be used as a way of guiding visual object search. We do this by providing a principled approach for indirect search in which the robot can make use of known or assumed spatial relations between objects, significantly increasing the efficiency of search by first looking for an intermediate object that is easier to find. We explain our design, implementation and experimental setup and provide extensive experimental results to back up our thesis.


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