OpenRatSLAM: an open source brain-based SLAM system


RatSLAM is a navigation system based on the neural processes underlying navigation in the rodent brain, capable of operating with low resolution monocular image data. Seminal experiments using RatSLAM include mapping an entire suburb with a web camera and a long term robot delivery trial. This paper describes OpenRatSLAM, an open-source version of RatSLAM with bindings to the Robot Operating System framework to leverage advantages such as robot and sensor abstraction, networking, data playback, and visualization. OpenRatSLAM comprises connected ROS nodes to represent RatSLAM’s pose cells, experience map, and local view cells, as well as a fourth node that provides visual odometry estimates. The nodes are described with reference to the RatSLAM model and salient details of the ROS implementation such as topics, messages, parameters, class diagrams, sequence diagrams, and parameter tuning strategies. The performance of the system is demonstrated on three publicly available open-source datasets.

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This work was supported in part by the Australian Research Council under a Discovery Project Grant DP0987078 to GW and JW, a Special Research Initiative on Thinking Systems TS0669699 to GW and JW and a Discovery Project Grant DP1212775 to MM. We would like to thank Samuel Brian for coding an iRat ground truth tracking system.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Ball.


Appendix A: Included datasets

The three datasets described in this paper are available online at Details of the ROS bag files are provided below.


Note that the data in the New College dataset belongs to the original authors from Oxford University.

Appendix B: Installation instructions and tutorial

Installing dependencies
OpenRatSLAM depends on ROS packages: opencv2 and topological_nav_msgs and also on 3D graphics library Irrlicht. Irrlicht can be installed on Ubuntu with apt-get
sudo apt-get install libirrlicht-dev
Build instructions
Checkout the source from SVN:
svn checkout
Setup ROS environment variables by typing:
. /opt/ros/fuerte/
The OpenRatSLAM directory needs to be added to the environment variable ROS_PACKAGE_PATH.
Then build OpenRatSLAM with
Running OpenRatSLAM
To use one of the provided pre-packaged bag files, download the bag file for either:
   \(\bullet \) iRat 2011 in Australia
   \(\bullet \) Car in St Lucia 2007
   \(\bullet \) Oxford New College 2008 dataset
All datasets are available at
Place the dataset in the OpenRatSLAM directory.
Run the dataset and RatSLAM by typing either
roslaunch irataus.launch
rosbag play irat_aus_28112011.bag
roslaunch stlucia.launch
rosbag play stlucia_2007.bag
roslaunch oxford_newcollege.launch
rosbag play oxford_newcollege.bag
Using rviz
The map created by OpenRatSLAM will be periodically published to rviz. To run rviz:
rosrun rviz rviz
Click on the ”Add” button down the bottom left of the window. Choose ”MarkerArray” from the list. In the field ”Marker Array Topic” on the left, click on the button with 3 dots. Choose the topic \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/ExperienceMap/MapMarker
Using OpenRatSLAM with a custom dataset
Creating a bag file
The easiest way to tune RatSLAM is using an offline dataset. Any robot providing camera images as sensor_msgs/CompressedImage and odometry as nav_msgs/Odometry can be used to create a dataset. The images and odometry must be in the form \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/camera/image and\(<\)my_robot\(>\)/odom.
To convert topic names to the correct format run:
rostopic echo \(<\)path/to/my/robot/camera\(> {\vert }\) rostopic pub \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/camera/image sensor_msgs/CompressedImage & rostopic echo \(<\)path/to/my/robot/odom\(> {\vert }\) rostopic pub \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/odom nav_msgs/Odometry &
Start recording into a bag file:
rosbag record -O \(<\)my_robot\(>.\)bag \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/camera/image \(<\)my_robot\(>\)/odom
Start the robot and collect the dataset. Press Ctrl-C at the terminal to finish recording.
Running the bag file
To run a custom bag file, a new config file and launch file are required.
Creating a new config file
In a terminal type
cd ratslam_ros
cp config/config_stlucia.txt config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt
gedit config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt
Change the first line
Creating a new launch file In the same terminal type
cp stlucia.launch \(<\)my_robot\(>.\)launch
gedit \(<\)my_robot\(>.\)launch
Replace all references to ”../config/config_stlucia.txt” with ”../config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt”
Comment out the visual odometry node to prevent it from running. Replace
\(<\)node name=”RatSLAMVisualOdometry” pkg=”ratslam_ros” type=”ratslam_vo” args=”../config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt _image_transport:=compressed” cwd=”node” required=”true” /\(>\)
\(<\)!– \(<\)node name=”RatSLAMVisualOdometry” pkg=”ratslam_ros” type=”ratslam_vo” args=”../config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt _image_transport:=compressed” cwd=”node” required=”true” /\(>\)\(>\)
Running your dataset Your dataset can now be run the same way is the provided datsets:
roslaunch \(<\)my_robot\(>.\)launch
rosbag play \(<\)my_robot\(>.\)bag
Tuning parameters
Open the created config file
gedit config/config_\(<\)my_robot\(>.\)txt
Edit the settings under [ratslam]. Refer to Sect. 4 for parameter details.

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Ball, D., Heath, S., Wiles, J. et al. OpenRatSLAM: an open source brain-based SLAM system. Auton Robot 34, 149–176 (2013).

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  • RatSLAM
  • OpenRatSLAM
  • SLAM
  • Navigation
  • Mapping
  • Brain-based
  • Appearance-based
  • ROS
  • Open-source
  • Hippocampus