If you’re going to Toa Payoh this week, you might just spot a new patrol robot weaving through the crowds at Toa Payoh Central.
Meet Xavier, HTX’s newest autonomous ground robot that will support public officers to enhance public health and safety.
Xavier made its debut on 5th September 2021 at Toa Payoh Central, where it will continue to be trialled for the next three weeks as part of a joint project between HTX, National Environment Agency (NEA), Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore Food Agency (SFA), and Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Using a myriad of cameras and sensors, as well as video analytics software, Xavier will be able to detect undesirable social behaviours, such as smoking in prohibited areas or illegal hawking.
Once Xavier detects a scenario, it will trigger a real-time alert to the command and control centre, display the appropriate message (depending on the scenario) to educate the public, and deter such behaviours. You can read more about how Xavier does this here.
Xavier at Toa Payoh HDB Hub. (Photo credit: HTX)
If you think Xavier looks a little familiar, that’s because it is! It’s related to its older cousin, M.A.T.A.R., who has previously helped the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in their frontline operations at National Day parades, Chingay Festivals, and Marina Bay Countdowns.
Just like its cousin, Xavier will also be assisting officers in frontline patrols. But instead of only serving SPF, Xavier will be customised to assist the respective needs of HDB, LTA, NEA and SFA – expanding its footprint beyond the Home Team.
Director of HTX’s Robotics, Automation & Unmanned Systems Centre of Expertise (RAUS CoE) Cheng Wee Kiang said, “With Xavier, we can force multiply agencies beyond the Home Team by augmenting their workforce needs and achieve greater enforcement efficiency on a single robotic platform. This synergy enables government agencies to build a strong ops-tech ecosystem and continue enhancing public health and safety.”
With its abilities, Xavier can help to reduce the manpower needed for foot patrols, leaving public officers free to do higher-order tasks to improve the efficiency of public health and safety operations.
Developing Xavier’s Vital Vision
One of Xavier’s key features is the in-house video analytics software built specifically for each participating agency.
Developed by HTX’s Sense-making and Surveillance (S&S) CoE, the video analytics will identify suspected undesirable social behaviours through the live video feeds and alert Xavier’s human operator. This is achieved through implementing pipelines of image processing, deep convolutional neural networks and software logics – all of which will give Xavier intelligence to spot anomalies.
To add, the analytics had to be so precise that separate algorithms were carefully designed for each agency due to their unique requirements. These include identifying:
- smoking in prohibited areas
- illegal hawking
- improperly parked bicycles
- congregation of more than five people (in line with prevailing Safe Management Measures)
- motorised active mobility devices and motorcycles on footpaths
It literally took a village to create this complex and specialised video analytics system: the computer vision engineers worked on each of the detection modules while the software engineers worked on the integration of Xavier’s systems as well as the front-end dashboard that would deliver alerts and insights to the human operators.
During the process, one technical challenge the team faced was the absence of real-world data, especially for scenarios that do not happen regularly.
To overcome this, the engineers conducted frequent data collection exercises at the actual trial site by simulating the heights at which the cameras would be mounted on Xavier. In some cases, the team also supplemented this with synthetic data generated through 3D modelling or publicly available datasets that could be found online.
But despite the challenges, this project was memorable for the S&S team. Benjamin Lee, the Deputy Director of S&S CoE, said, “Each member’s contribution and development formed an indispensable piece of the puzzle; we had to ensure that these pieces could fit together and continue to do so even if pieces changed along the development cycle. Beyond that, we also adopted the same philosophy to work closely with RAUS CoE engineers to ensure that the entire end-to-end system from the robot platform to our video analytics system worked seamlessly.”
The team from S&S CoE. (From L to R) Li Yier, Ang Soon Heng, Benjamin Lee, Alvin Wong, Ong Si Ci, Betty Chan. Not pictured: Alvin Lam (Photo credit: HTX)
Once the video analytics software was up and running, engineers from RAUS CoE pieced together all the moving parts, from integrating the other sub-systems (i.e. robot platform, command and control system, network and communications systems) to coordinating with the various stakeholders.
After the trial at Toa Payoh, RAUS CoE will continue to refine Xavier to ensure that it will be the optimal solution for the various agencies’ needs come deployment.
The team from RAUS CoE and Policing PMC. (From L to R) Ong Ka Hing, Goh Boon Kiat, Jaslyn Goh, Eugene Lee (in red), Cheng Wee Kiang, Kevin Goh (Policing PMC), Rachel Zhao, Shi Yuyan. (Photo credit: HTX)
“I hope that Xavier will be well-accepted by residents and that everyone will eventually see Xavier as an iconic friendly neighborhood robot that helps to make our community safe and happy,” said Jaslyn Goh, a Lead Engineer in RAUS CoE.
So, if you happen to spot Xavier rolling around the neighbourhood – don’t be shy, say ‘Hi!’
A man and his son looking at Xavier at Toa Payoh HDB Hub. (Photo credit: HTX)