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Andrzej Pronobis

Autonomous Question Answering with Mobile Robots in Human-Populated Environments

M. Chung*, A. Pronobis*, M. Cakmak, D. Fox, R. Rao

In: IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2016.


Autonomous mobile robots will soon become ubiquitous in human-populated environments. Besides their typical applications in fetching, delivery, or escorting, such robots present the opportunity to assist human users in their daily tasks by gathering and reporting up-to-date knowledge about the environment. In this paper, we explore this use case and present an end-to-end framework that enables a mobile robot to answer natural language questions about the state of a large-scale, dynamic environment asked by the inhabitants of that environment. The system parses the question and estimates an initial viewpoint that is likely to contain information for answering the question based on prior environment knowledge. Then, it autonomously navigates towards the viewpoint while dynamically adapting to changes and new information. The output of the system is an image of the most relevant part of the environment that allows the user to obtain an answer to their question. We additionally demonstrate the benefits of a continuously operating information gathering robot by showing how the system can answer retrospective questions about the past state of the world using incidentally recorded sensory data. We evaluate our approach with a custom mobile robot deployed in a university building, with questions collected from occupants of the building. We demonstrate our system's ability to respond to these questions in different environmental conditions.


  author =       {Chung*, Michael Jae-Yoon and Pronobis*, Andrzej and Cakmak, Maya and Fox, Dieter and Rao, Rajesh P. N.},
  title =        {Autonomous Question Answering with Mobile Robots in Human-Populated Environments},
  booktitle =    {Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS)},
  year =         2016,
  address =      {Daejeon, Korea},
  month =        oct,
  doi =          {10.1109/IROS.2016.7759146},
  url =          {}