Multi-map navigation allows multiple 2D maps to be linked together with "transitions" that allow the robot to travel between the two maps. This approach solves the problem of having large maps that are too big for the robot's memory or are too difficult to make in one SLAM session. In addition, it allows for easy navigation of multi-floor buildings. Each of the transitions can lead to the execution of a separate program via "transition" actions as it is taken. This allows the operation of door opening software or elevator management software.

Map Creation

To create the maps used for multi-map navigation, you should use SLAM software to create a number of 2D maps. You must engineer the maps in a manner such that when the robot completes a transition from one map to the next, it will be ready to navigate on the second map. These requirements are dependent on your transition software. The default transition simply dumps the robot right into the new map, so the two maps should overlap at least enough for the robot to be able to navigate on each transition.

After creating the maps, you must load them into the map_store. One way to do this with the add_map script in the map_store package. Remember to give them descriptive names so that they can be used appropriately in defining transitions.

After loading the maps, you must define transitions between maps. This revolves around creating a YAML file defining them. The YAML file has two main parts - the first is a list of maps and the second a list of transitions. The maps section is as follows:

start_map: willow-up
     - name: willow-up
       north_angle: 1.5707963267948966

The last two lines are repeated for however many maps there are. The start_map: defines the initial map. The last two lines define a map named willow-up. North_angle must be specified and is assumed to be the angle towards north. It is always required, but it need not be accurate unless the default transition is used. If all maps face the same direction, it is safe to set all north_angle values to zero.

After defining your maps, you must define the transitions, which begin with the wormholes tag:

     - name: hallway-door
       type: normal
       radius: 0.55
            - map: willow-down
              position: [36.071, 19.45]
            - map: willow-up
              position: [5.65, 22.629]

The wormholes tag specifies the list of transitions. The -name: elements may be repeated to define as many transitions as you wish. The name of each transition (hallway-door) in this case, must be unique. The "type:" tag describes the type of transition, which may be normal or the name of a transition action (see below on creating your own transition). The "radius:" tag defines the limits to the radius, a circle which the robot must enter to travel through the transition - if it is omitted, then the robot will attempt to get all the way to the location before executing the transition. In addition to these parameters, the location may contain other parameters that are fed to the transition action, so long as they do not conflict with "locations", "name", and "radius" at the will of the transition action writer.

The "locations:" tag begins a list of locations, and each of the two lines defines a location. Locations are the endpoints of a transition. Most transitions (such as doors) have two locations, but some may have more (e.g. an elevator in a four story building might have four transitions). Each location must specify a map: which is the map in which that location is placed and position: which is the x-y coordinate in that map. To get these coordinates, open the map in such a way that you can use rviz to place goals in that location, and then read from the rviz console logs. Locations may additionally specify a direction: exit or direction: entrance. This is needed for one-way transitions such as pushing open a door. Locations without direction: are considered bi-directional. Finally, the location may specify an angle: tag which specifies an angle the robot must face when it reaches the location, which ensures that the robot is facing the right way to perform the action required. In addition to these parameters, the location may contain other parameters that are fed to the transition action, so long as they do not conflict with "map", "position", "angle", or "direction", at the will of the transition action writer.


You must first add map_store to your launch file. To start multi_map_navigation, add this code to your launch file:

  <node pkg="multi_map_navigation" type="multi_map_navigation" name="multi_map_navigation" output="screen">
        <param name="definition_file" value="YAML" />
        <param name="transition_types" value="TYPES" />

Where YAML is the absolute path to your configuration YAML and TYPES is a list of transition actions that could be present in the map. TYPES can be the empty string if you have no transitions outside of "normal" transitions that do not trigger any actions.

You can also add lines to set the initial pose of the base:

  <param name="/amcl/initial_pose_x" value="9.116" />
  <param name="/amcl/initial_pose_y" value="10.993" />
  <param name="/amcl/initial_pose_a" value="1.546" />

Specifying Robot Position and Calling Multi-Map Navigation

Once multi-map navigation is launched, you must specify a position in the maps. If you did not specify a proper initial position, then you must use rviz to place the robot properly in the map. You must also launch on the proper map, if you haven't, then you must properly set the map from the command line:

rosservice call /multi_map_navigation/set_map <map-name>

Where <map-name> is the target <map-name> which the robot is starting on.

Once multi-map navigation is launched, you can give the robot a goal. To achieve this from the command line:

rosrun multi_map_navigation multi_map_navigation_test 12 10 willow-down

Where 12 and 10 are the floating point x-y coordinate of the target and "willow-down" is the target map name.

Calling Multi-Map Navigation Pragmatically

The example of multi_map_navigation_test shows how to do this effectively. Basically, there is an action called MultiMapNavigationAction that exists in multi_map_navigation/move. From python:

       self.action_client = actionlib.SimpleActionClient("multi_map_navigation/move", MultiMapNavigationAction)
        goal = MultiMapNavigationGoal()
        goal.target_pose.header.stamp = rospy.get_rostime()
        goal.target_pose.header.frame_id = "map"
        goal.target_pose.pose.position.x = xp
        goal.target_pose.pose.position.y = yp
        goal.target_pose.pose.orientation.w = 1.0
        goal.goal_map = map

Writing Transition Actions

Transition actions are actions that get run on transition between maps in the world. Examples include door and elevator operation software. The transition is simply an action server implementing the MultiMapNavigationTransitionAction. We recommend hard-coding the server name so that map files can easily access it. The transition action feeds data to your code that may be of use. The first is the string "wormhole" which contains the entire YAML data as a string of the transition from the YAML map configuration file. The second are "start" and "end" which contain the numeric index of the starting and ending wormholes, which is useful to determine, e.g. what floor an elevator should exit on.


Two examples of the use of multi-map navigation exist for your robot. The first is in the stage_multi_map_navigation package, which serves as a simulator-based regression test of the entire multi-map navigation system. See

A second example is the PR2 coffee run code which can be found in This contains less re-usable software for the PR2 to perform a coffee run through our office. It thus contains software such as a elevator management and door openning software for dealing the doors in our building. These may or may not work for your environment and are unsupported - however they serve as advanced examples of multi-map navigation's ablities.


- Develop a GUI (rviz plugin?) for drag and drop creation of maps - Develop an rviz plugin for placing the initial position of the robot and goals - Improve code quality

Wiki: multi_map_navigation (last edited 2013-04-01 23:07:15 by TonyPratkanis)