Finding and Navigating to Household Objects with UHF RFID Tags by Optimizing RF Signal Strength

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Deyle, Travis
Reynolds, Matthew S.
Kemp, Charles C.
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We address the challenge of finding and navigating to an object with an attached ultra-high frequency radio- frequency identification (UHF RFID) tag. With current off-the- shelf technology, one can affix inexpensive self-adhesive UHF RFID tags to hundreds of objects, thereby enabling a robot to sense the RF signal strength it receives from each uniquely identified object. The received signal strength indicator (RSSI) associated with a tagged object varies widely and depends on many factors, including the object’s pose, material prop- erties and surroundings. This complexity creates challenges for methods that attempt to explicitly estimate the object’s pose. We present an alternative approach that formulates finding and navigating to a tagged object as an optimization problem where the robot must find a pose of a directional antenna that maximizes the RSSI associated with the target tag. We then present three autonomous robot behaviors that together perform this optimization by combining global and local search. The first behavior uses sparse sampling of RSSI across the entire environment to move the robot to a location near the tag; the second samples RSSI over orientation to point the robot toward the tag; and the third samples RSSI from two antennas pointing in different directions to enable the robot to approach the tag. We justify our formulation using the radar equation and associated literature. We also demonstrate that it has good performance in practice via tests with a PR2 robot from Willow Garage in a house with a variety of tagged household objects.
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