Rights: The University of Waikato Published 2 September 2010 Download

Professor Dale Carnegie and his team at Victoria University have spent many years developing a Mobile Autonomous Robotic Vehicle for Indoor Navigation – or MARVIN for short. This robot does many jobs, one of which is being a security guard. MARVIN has been equipped with a set of emotions to enable him to modify and adapt his behaviour according to different situations. He interacts with his environment using a variety of sensors.

Points of interest

  • What sensors is MARVIN equipped with?
  •  What sensors would Dale’s team like to add to MARVIN?
  • What sensor is MARVIN not able to be equipped with and why?


Humans have emotions which really help us to survive in our ordinary daily lives. Now, if we go back thousands of years, emotions helped us run away from things with big pointy teeth. But it’s the same sort of thing, if there is something very dangerous coming towards you, you don't rationally sit there and work out all the options and then decide to run away. There is an emotional trigger which says, “Get out of here as fast as you possibly can.”

And we thought, well, why can't the robot use that as well. And so that is what we've equipped MARVIN our robot with, is a set of emotions to really help it survive in situations that otherwise it would find itself stuck in. So if MARVIN is colliding with a large number of things, he will slow down. He will become far more thoughtful, try to really work out what path he should take to avoid that, or if MARVIN is stuck somewhere and he can't get out, he will become frustrated, he will be a bit more aggressive in his movements to try to get his way out of there. So if MARVIN wants to be intimidating, his head projects upwards and out and he can loom over you, or he can shrink right back down.

We've given MARVIN a whole heap of jobs. He is our security guard, so he will work out whether you are supposed to be in the building or not.

But he is also friendly, he can give you directions.

We use a whole variety of sensors in MARVIN. The first one, we have a touch sensor that means, if MARVIN has completely failed to detect an obstacle and he has bumped into it, MARVIN will feel that, so similar to how we would feel when we collide or bump against an object.

Then he has got the infrared sensors, so that allows him to see up to about 3 metres. Then we use an ultrasonic. The ultrasonic sensor will tell us obstacles to about 10 metres out.

We have a laser scanner on MARVIN. That will get us out to about 50 metres. We also have ears on MARVIN, so MARVIN can listen to you, turn to face you if you are speaking to him and so that he can understand what you're saying.

And the final sensor that we've got on Marvin is a counter so that he knows how many times his wheels have gone round, because if he knows how many times his wheels have gone round, he knows how far he has travelled.

We'd like to put other sensors on Marvin. We'd like to put a digital compass on him so that he knows which way he’s heading. Also, because MARVIN is an indoor robot, we can't use GPS, because GPS won't work through concrete buildings.