Stanford Cart in 1979
click image to enlarge

First Robot 3D Mapping and Navigation in Ordinary Settings

In 1979, to complete Moravec’s PhD work at Stanford University begun in 1973, a robot called the Cart, radio-linked to a large mainframe computer, slowly negotiated obstacle courses, sliding a TV camera side to side to obtain stereoscopic views. It found, tracked and avoided the 3D locations of a few dozen object corners in the route ahead, and monitored its own changing position.

The left bottom image shows the Cart's view of a room, superimposed with red dots marking points its program has selected and stereoscopically ranged.

The consequent 3D map at the right shows the same points, with diagonal stalks indicating height, and a planned obstacle-avoiding path (the labels were added by hand.) The program updated the map, route and the Cart’s idea of its own position each meter of travel, each step taking about ten minutes on the 1 million calculation per second computer (1/1000 the power of a 2002 PC). The entire room crossing took five hours. The sparse maps were barely adequate, and blunders occurred every few tens of meters. At that time, it was the state of the art.