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New SubT Challenge Tutorials Posted

New SubT Challenge Tutorials Posted

Over the past two years, Open Robotics has been working with DARPA to create the SubT Virtual Testbed for the DARPA Subterranean Challenge Virtual Competition. Recently, we’ve embarked to make this technology more accessible to the ROS community. Given that robots can be expensive to build and difficult operate, it can often can be difficult for students, researchers, and even DARPA competitors to gain access to the latest hardware. For this reason, we feel that the SubT Virtual Testbed isn’t just useful for the SubT Challenge, it is also a great tool for anyone who would like to learn about robotics from the comfort of their own desk. At its core, the SubT Virtual Testbed is simply a dockerized Ignition Gazebo simulation with some of the largest and most detailed virtual underground environments ever created. Within this simulation environment, developers are able to spawn a wide variety of simulated robots with a full payload of simulated sensors. This simulated environment and the simulated robotic platforms provide a reasonable analog to the SubT Challenge Systems Competition. In fact, some of the virtual environments are directly inspired by the competition courses. To get familiar with the technology, you only need to install and start the container and then try out a software payload for your simulated robot.

We’ve put together two blog posts describing how to get started with the SubT Virtual Testbed, with more on the way. The first post goes through the basics of how to install and configure Docker containers and how to teleop your robots through the virtual environment. The second post demonstrates the basics of Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) using ROS Cartographer and gives a rough introduction to software development within the Docker container. If you have ever wondered how to make a robot that is able to navigate around your home, these two tutorials should give you a good idea of how this works from a software perspective. When I did my initial review of these tutorials, I went from zero to driving a robot in about 30 minutes. The tutorials are written at a level suitable for undergraduate students or even advanced high school students. If you are looking for educational activities during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this is a great option.

Current Tutorials


Distribution Statement “A” (Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited)

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