Advances in networking, communication and computation technologies present several exciting possibilities for distributed robotic systems. In the past years a number of research efforts have been carried out to provide with Internet based robotics. Most of these involved teleoperated arm robots [R1] such as the Mercury project [R2], TeleGarden [R3], Bradford Telescope [R4], Australia´s Telerobot [R5] PumaPaint [R6], the Internet based remote control for the Pathfinder [R7], and many others. A number of mobile (and sometimes autonomous) robots were also adapted for web control, such as Xavier [R8], interactive museum tour guide robots (Rhino [R9] and Minerva [R10]), KephOnTheWeb [R11], as well as others.
These projects have highlighted the potential of Internet when applied to robotics as well as some of its limitations. Among the shortcomings experienced were (1) limited bandwidth (original Internet), (2) restrictions in wireless transmission, usually radio, over the area of operation of the robot and (3) restricted tasks to accommodate these shortcomings. With the introduction of Internet2 and ubiquitous wireless communication, that will soon handle real time video, it becomes now more realistic to develop an Internet based mobile robot laboratory that will enable more sophisticated mobile robot architectures accessible to a more extensive audience. In particular, advances in IP-based communication for handheld devices equipped with wireless interfaces is creating new challenges for mobile middleware frameworks, while opening new possibilities in areas such as distributed robotic system (DRS), where intelligent autonomous mobile robots can communicate and collaborate in order to perform complex tasks. However, Distributed intelligent and autonomous (remote) robots not only demand ubiquitous access to information (anywhere, anyplace and anytime), but also a high degree of flexibility and adaptability not present on current communication frameworks, in order to deal with changes in the computing and communication environment. For example, logical mobility, or the movement of code and data, as well as physical mobility may affect network connection (disconnection, reduced connectivity) while DRS is running. In this scenario, the robot needs to be able to:
  1. Detect and adapt itself to the change of location (location awareness).
  2. Adapt to changing network and environment conditions (transient failures, disconnection, or reduced connectivity) due to power consumption, available spectrum and mobility.
  3. Integrate power aware mechanisms in order to determine the parameters required to achieve cost-effective system performance and self-adaptation based in robot's constraints and configuration, as well as communication service availability.
In such a way, the MIRO project, Adaptive Middleware for Mobile Internet Robot Laboratory involves four main research areas and development thrusts: These areas are linked together by a distributed architecture as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. MIRO Distributed Architecture.

The model and simulation repository as well as the distributed NSL/ASL system, distributed in a set of workstations connected to the internet2 infrastructure, provide the robot's intelligence; while the robot itself is located in a wireless environment. The middleware framework facilitates communication between the networked workstations and the mobile robots, hiding mobility complexities; while extending robot's mobility and autonomy.

Research Objectives

The specific objectives of this joint research project are fourfold:
  1. To provide an understanding and means by which Internet2 can be efficiently integrated into a public wireless network of single and multiple autonomous mobile robots capable of handling real-time video.
  2. To provide an adaptive communication environment that will make it transparent to the application and robot what the actual network characteristics are and how to deal with the inherent restrictions.
  3. To provide a Internet2/wireless "grid" that can be effectively applied to biologically inspired autonomous mobile robots linked to distributed computational resources in the Web.
  4. To provide with a distributed virtual laboratory enabling real time interaction with autonomous mobile robotic systems to users anywhere in the world.
In order to achieve these goals, the following issues will be addressed: