Mapping and digitizing archeological sites is an important task to preserve cultural heritage. Systems used for digitizing archeological sites typically build upon static 3D laser scanning technology that has to be brought into archeological sites by humans. While this is acceptable for accessible sites, it prevents the digitization of sites that are inaccessible by humans. In the ﬁeld of robotics, however, there has recently been a tremendous progress in the development of autonomous robots that offer various services to their users. The task of autonomously exploring three-dimensional underground environments such as caves, however, still opens a series of challenges. The reasons for this are manifold. Such environments pose enormous difﬁculties to autonomous robots because of the problematic perception (no/poor lighting, unpredictable situations, difﬁcult scene interpretation, complex traversability analysis, ...) paired with limited communication capabilities, which restrict the continuous supervision and tele-operation by human users.
The goals of ROVINA are:
- to provide novel technology that supports the preservation of cultural heritage by allowing the acquisition of digital models in hard-to-access environments,
- to extend the technology of autonomous navigation for robots designed to explore unknown underground environments such as caves and catacombs,
- to develop novel techniques to construct large 3D textured models of these poorly structured environments,
- to offer a cost-effective support for performing continuous monitoring of these sites and to enable comparative analysis that will allow to devise better preservation plans.
The technology developed in ROVINA will allow a mobile robot to effectively explore such environments, to acquire a detailed model enriched with semantic information, adapt its navigation behavior according to an enhanced traversability analysis and interact with remote users in an effective way.
To achieve this objective, the ROVINA consortium consists of leading researchers in the ﬁelds of digital preservation, autonomous and networked robots, navigation, vision and perception. We will provide novel technologies for the following tasks:
- Flexible user-interfaces providing different levels of autonomy and addressing the needs of different user groups
- Reliable navigation in challenging environments
- Building accurate maps of 3D environments given multi-modal sensory data in an online fashion
- Extracting semantic information from the multi-modal sensor data, i.e., classiﬁcation of traversability or the identiﬁcation of archeologically interesting artifacts
- Reliable and cost-effective exploration of unknown and unstructured 3D environments
- Tools for comparative analysis of environments over time that allow to identify variations in the staticstability
- Software releases of all key components will allow others to build on top of our systems in a cost-effective way, to evaluate the project’s approach on alternative platforms as well as data to allow a comprehensive comparison
ROVINA is targeted at developing innovative digital preservation tools and at the same time novel technologies that will strengthen the robustness of robots operating in previously unknown and unstructured 3D environments and therefore open new perspectives for commercial applications of robots in the future.
One speciﬁc outcome of ROVINA will be a prototypical autonomous exploration robot that is able to robustly and autonomously explore previously unknown underground structures. This robot will show a substantial extension of the navigation capabilities of mobile robots and be a further stepping stone on the path towards fully autonomous agents that reliably perceive and act in their environment. Additionally, the ROVINA robot will show novel technology for easy-to-use interfaces that allow even untrained people to control mobile robots in complex settings. In particular, ROVINA will focus on the heterogeneous classes of users that are involved in preserving cultural heritage. These include architects, archeologists, construction engineers, historians and several others. Finally, ROVINA will offer practical means to implement cost-effective preservation plans by allowing to monitor and analyze the state of decay of cultural heritage. As a showcase and for the evaluation of the ROVINA approach, we selected the Catacombs of Rome and Naples, which will be explored, digitized and visualized using the ROVINA system.