The VRAS group has successfully helped the global open-source robotics community by implementing the first plausible simulation model of tracked vehicles. The model has just been made available to everyone as part of the Gazebo simulator
Among others, it will help the CRAS-CTU team in the global DARPA SubT challenge where a team of robots should autonomously explore underground areas. Simulations are a key to success in such large-scenario challenges – that is why there is also a virtual-only track of SubT. Due to the previous lack of support for tracked vehicles, the organizers from DARPA did not offer any tracked vehicle as an option for the virtual track of the challenge. After the STIX event with real robots took part in Denver, Colorado, it is apparent that tracked vehicles are very popular among the teams. Since now, DARPA can also choose to offer tracked vehicles to the virtual track competitors.
Many more applications are possible possible with this model being released, including machine learning of motion models for tracked robots etc. Let’s see what the robotics community will come with.
See more technical details in M. Pecka, K. Zimmermann, T. Svoboda. Fast Simulation of Vehicles with Non-deformable Tracks. In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2017 [arXiv]