RF vision: RFID receive signal strength indicator (RSSI) images for sensor fusion and mobile manipulation

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Deyle, Travis
Nguyen, Hai
Reynolds, Matt S.
Kemp, Charles C.
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In this work we present a set of integrated methods that enable an RFID-enabled mobile manipulator to approach and grasp an object to which a self-adhesive passive (battery-free) UHF RFID tag has been affixed. Our primary contribution is a new mode of perception that produces images of the spatial distribution of received signal strength indication (RSSI) for each of the tagged objects in an environment. The intensity of each pixel in the 'RSSI image' is the measured RF signal strength for a particular tag in the corresponding direction. We construct these RSSI images by panning and tilting an RFID reader antenna while measuring the RSSI value at each bearing. Additionally, we present a framework for estimating a tagged object's 3D location using fused ID-specific features derived from an RSSI image, a camera image, and a laser range finder scan. We evaluate these methods using a robot with actuated, long-range RFID antennas and finger-mounted short-range antennas. The robot first scans its environment to discover which tagged objects are within range, creates a user interface, orients toward the user-selected object using RF signal strength, estimates the 3D location of the object using an RSSI image with sensor fusion, approaches and grasps the object, and uses its finger-mounted antennas to confirm that the desired object has been grasped. In our tests, the sensor fusion system with an RSSI image correctly located the requested object in 17 out of 18 trials (94.4%), an 11.1% improvement over the system's performance when not using an RSSI image. The robot correctly oriented to the requested object in 8 out of 9 trials (88.9%), and in 3 out of 3 trials the entire system successfully grasped the object selected by the user.
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