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Navigating a city like Manhattan is relatively straightforward, given that all the streets run parallel or at right angles, but all bets are off when it comes to more organic cities like Cambridge, which tend to have more curves and constraints.

MIT’s maze-like Stata Center is a prime example of where the “Manhattan Assumption,” which assumes all planes are parallel or oriented in the same direction, can’t be applied, says Julian Straub, a second-year MIT graduate student. So to make it easier for robots navigate non-standard landscapes, Straub developed an algorithm to identify the major orientations in 3D scenes.More →