Gruveo Powers a Planetary Rover Prototype

Aurora Robotics' prototype for the 2015 RASC-AL Robo-Ops competition

Aurora Robotics’ prototype for the 2015 RASC-AL Robo-Ops competition

Gruveo seems to be finding its way into applications that we could never dream of. Just recently, we learned that an award-winning college robotics team uses Gruveo in their latest rover prototype.

Aurora Robotics is a 7-member team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In 2013, the team has advanced to the international finals of the NASA Lunabotics competition, successfully mining 13.5 Kg of dust during a ten-minute teleoperation run. In 2014, they won the Judges’ Innovation Award at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition, where the team impressed the jury with their robot’s compact stowed configuration.

The UAF team has just completed their Prototype Zero for the upcoming 2015 RASC-AL Robo-Ops competition. The challenge is to build a planetary rover prototype and demonstrate its capabilities to perform a series of competitive tasks in field tests. One of the requirements is providing a live video feed from the robot, and this is where the team decided to use Gruveo.

“We chose Gruveo after testing each of the major video technologies,” says Dr. Orion Lawlor, Aurora Robotics’ faculty advisor. “Skype works well off-peak but the servers are overloaded during working hours, resulting in dropped frames and connections. Google Hangouts video is solid technically but difficult to start automatically. Gruveo’s peer-to-peer connection makes it fast and reliable, and it embeds well in a web browser.”

The robot is equipped with the Acer C710 Chromebook that runs Chrubuntu, a variant of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. A special script on the robot launches Firefox with a hardcoded Gruveo URL. The initiated video call is then answered on the front-end laptop that is used to command the robot.

The robot is currently connected to the Internet via the infrastructure Wi-Fi, but the team is planning to switch to an LTE hotspot to comply with the competition’s requirements.

“We’ve been really happy with Gruveo,” says Dr. Lawor. “The framerate is solid, and the connection is reliable.”

Check out the Aurora Robotics prototype in the video below. The video link is shown from 1:04 to 1:29:

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  • We’ve got a full robot parts list and some more details about our mining robot at our blog,
    http://fairbanksrobots.wordpress.com/

    Gruveo has been working well for us!

  • Serge Lachapelle

    Well done! I encourage you to try out the ARM based chromebook hardware, as it has hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding and may save you a lot on battery consumption and simplify heat dissipation.

    • Thanks for the tip, Serge! I assume the guys will have to run Chrome OS (and thus use Chrome) to get h/w acceleration?

      • Serge Lachapelle

        Not 100% sure if support is in the native libs or not. Worse case, you can rip the code out of chrome.

        I encourage you to ask on discuss-webrtc@googlegroups.com Where we have 1000’s of developers posting and answering.

        • OK, we’ll try one! We also do some fairly heavy OpenCV marker detection on video streams for robot localization, but I’ve been meaning to pick up an ARM chromebook just for benchmarking this!