Mobile robot project

Autonomous Floor Mapping

2010 - 2011 spring


Simulation can be used to reduce the time and cost to develop a new technology. This paper describes the development of an autonomous floor mapping robot. In order to reduce the cost of building prototypes to test the program, we used the Simbad 3D simulator. To test in a more realistic environment, we established a way to control objects in a virtual world Second Life. Then, for the hardware part, we built a low cost robot with cheap but accurate Sharp IR sensors with a regular optical mouse.



  • Robots need maps for efficient paths planning
  • Mapping is costly
    • US $6,000 for SICK LMS-200
  • Need a platform to test our algorithm for floor mapping
    • Software
    • Hardware


  • Algorithm
    • Easy to implement
    • Practical
  • Robot platform
    • Arduino based .  easy to extend and customize
    • Cheap sensors for 2D scanning
    • Easy and cheap way to track robot’s location



  1. Divide the environment into grids
  2. Go straight
  3. While going straight, perform a 180-degree before moving to the new grid
  4. Record whether the left, right, and front grids are occupied or not
  5. Continue steps 2-4 until the front grid is occupied,  then enter the main loop

Main Loop

WHILE (unexplored grid exists)
IF no block in front & not explored in front
IF no block on left & not explored on left
turn left
go straight
go straight 
IF no block on left & not explored on left
turn left
go straight
ELSE IF no block on right & not explored on right
turn right
go straight
Breath first search to find an unexplored grid


  • The mapping environment must have a closed boundary
    • Required to terminate the main loop
  • Each grid is as large as the robot

Software SimulatioSimbad 3D Robot Simulator

  • software simulator
  • Advantages:
    • Source code is available → modify the code to create our own interface and environment
    • Very fast to obtain the sensors’ readings
    • Location and orientation of the robot are accurately obtained

Second Life

  • Virtual World for the simulation
  • Problems
    • Hard to track location accurately
    • Hard to obtain the map of the surroundings
    • It takes one minute to do a 180-degree scan
  • Cannot map the environment reliably and autonomously

Real robot

Hardware Components

  • Control
    • Two Arduino boards
  • Sensing
    • Three Sharp IR analog distance sensors      (10 .- 80 cm)
    • Computer mouse
    • Digital compass
  • Communication
    • Two Xbee modules

Assembled Robot

Scanning, Tracking, talking

  • IR Sensors for Scanning

Mouse for Tracking

  • Robot moves in incremental steps
  • Mouse keeps track of robot’s movement and helps adjusting the robot’s path

Xbee for Communication

  • Two Xbee modules
    • On robot
    • Connected to computer
  • Xbees are used to send
    • commands from computer to robot
    • sensors’ readings from robot to computer for processing
Results and Summary


  • IR sensors give really good readings
    • Useful for pose estimation (future work)
  • Incremental steps and mouse make robot go very straight
  • Magnetic fields nearby interfere with compass’s readings
    • Robot does not turn left or right perfectly


  • Using software simulations to experiment with algorithms
  • Extendable robot for US $400
    • Xbee, mouse, multiple IR sensors, compass, …
  • Accurate 2D scans can be accomplished for under US $65
  • Computer mouse is used beyond its intended purposes


  • Easy-to-implement mapping algorithm
  • Simbad 3D Robot Simulator for simulation
  • Cheap robot platform for testing
    • IR sensors for scanning
    • Mouse and compass for tracking
    • Xbee for wireless communication


  • H. Nguyen, A. Eguchi, D. Hooten, "In Search of a Cost Effective Way to Develop Autonomous Floor Mapping Robots,"9th IEEE International Symposium on RObotic and Sensors Environments (ROSE 2011), 2011, Montreal, Canada. pp.107-112. [View Download]
Akihiro Nakashima,
Nov 11, 2011, 11:17 AM
Akihiro Nakashima,
Nov 11, 2011, 11:09 AM