Section: New Software and Platforms


Audio-Visual Head Popeye+

In 2016 our audio-visual platform was upgraded from Popeye to Popeye+. Popeye+ has two high-definition cameras with a wide field of view. We also upgraded the software libraries that perform synchronized acquisition of audio signals and color images. Popeye+ has been used for several datasets.






NAO Robots

The PERCEPTION team selected the companion robot NAO for experimenting and demonstrating various audio-visual skills as well as for developing the concept of social robotics that is able to recognize human presence, to understand human gestures and voice, and to communicate by synthesizing appropriate behavior. The main challenge of our team is to enable human-robot interaction in the real world.

Figure 2. The Popeye+ audio-visual platform (left) delivers high-quality, high-resolution and wide-angle images at 30FPS. The NAO prototype used by PERCEPTION in the EARS STREP project has a twelve-channel spherical microphone array synchronized with a stereo camera pair.
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The humanoid robot NAO is manufactured by SoftBank Robotics Europe. Standing, the robot is roughly 60 cm tall, and 35cm when it is sitting. Approximately 30 cm large, NAO includes two CPUs. The first one, placed in the torso, together with the batteries, controls the motors and hence provides kinematic motions with 26 degrees of freedom. The other CPU is placed in the head and is in charge of managing the proprioceptive sensing, the communications, and the audio-visual sensors (two cameras and four microphones, in our case). NAO's on-board computing resources can be accessed either via wired or wireless communication protocols.

NAO's commercially available head is equipped with two cameras that are arranged along a vertical axis: these cameras are neither synchronized nor a significant common field of view. Hence, they cannot be used in combination with stereo vision. Within the EU project HUMAVIPS, Aldebaran Robotics developed a binocular camera system that is arranged horizontally. It is therefore possible to implement stereo vision algorithms on NAO. In particular, one can take advantage of both the robot's cameras and microphones. The cameras deliver VGA sequences of image pairs at 12 FPS, while the sound card delivers the audio signals arriving from all four microphones and sampled at 48 kHz. Subsequently, Aldebaran developed a second binocular camera system to go into the head of NAO v5.

In order to manage the information flow gathered by all these sensors, we implemented several middleware packages. In 2012 we implemented Robotics Services Bus (RSB) developed by the University of Bielefeld. Subsequently (2015-2016) the PERCEPTION team developed NAOLab, a middleware for hosting robotic applications in C, C++, Python and Matlab, using the computing power available with NAO, augmented with a networked PC. In 2017 we abandoned RSB and NAOLab and converted all our robotics software packages to ROS (Robotic Operating System).