How Can a Robot See?

In today’s era, robots are used everywhere in various forms. They can do many amazing things like working in manufacturing factories, delivering a package, and even exploring things like Mars’s surface. Despite these facts, we only notice robots that are designed to make a delicious cup of coffee.

Robots can’t see and understand the environment around them as they require some interpreting skills that are still under development for many other machines. However, this is changing rapidly as many innovations have been made in technology.

The advancements have helped robots improve their interpreting abilities by programming them to understand their environment and react accordingly. An example of such includes understanding the objects around them, measuring the distance, etc.

Things That Can Make Robots See

Technology can enable a robot to see and understand its environment. We have two eyes to see things and objects around us and collect light-reflecting items. Our eyes convert that light into electrical energy sent down to the brain and is immediately processed by the brain.

The electric impulses in our brains help us work out with the things around us by building a world map that allows us to pick up items, see each other’s faces, and do other great things in life.

Robots don’t have eyes to see, but they have sensors to help them understand their environment by sensing it. Following is a list of things that can make a robot see and react:

LiDAR Sensors

LiDAR sensors are light and laser-based distance sensors. Many different companies are developing LiDAR technology to help robots and autonomous vehicles analyze their surrounding objects.

The principle behind LiDAR is simple; it is to shine the light at a surface and measure the time it takes to return to the source. It fires rapid pulses of laser light at a surface in quick succession, and the sensor builds the complex map of the surface it is measuring.

There are detection sensors that provide high tech benefits to robots across industries. Both 2D & 3D vision allows robots to manipulate different parts without reprogramming, picking up objects in other locations, and correcting inaccuracies.

Types of LiDAR Sensors

There are three types of LiDAR sensors, which are single beam, multi-beam, and rotational sensors.

Single Beam Sensors

Single beam sensors produce one beam of light and are typically used to measure the distance from large objects, such as walls, floors, and ceiling. LED and pulsed beams are identical to flashlights as the beam diverges over large distances.

Within available beam sensors, the beams can be separated into highly collimated beams similar to the ones used in laser pointers.

Multi-Beam Sensors

Multi-beam sensors produce three beams and are excellent in preventing the objects from bumping into one another. These are responsible for watching out for collision and seeing if something is in the robot’s path.

Rotational Sensors

Rotational sensors produce a single beam while rotating and are great for detecting and avoiding objects. They move the robot away from the items in the path, hence preventing a collision.

Part Detection Sensors

Part detection sensors are mostly used in industrial robots and can help detect whether a part has arrived at a particular location. There are various types of part detection sensors and unique abilities, including catching a presence, shape, distance, color, and orientation.

One of the most critical tasks that is often assigned to robots is picking up the object. It is crucial for the robot to know its location and whether it is ready to pick it up. Doing this requires various sensors that help the machine detect the object’s position and orientation. Many robots have built-in part detection sensors to notice whether the item is present or not.

Sonar Sensors

Sonar is a common sensor for detecting objects. These ultrasonic sensors work by using the same principle that helps bats and dolphins navigate the environment by echolocation. This sensor has a speaker and a microphone.

The speaker sends out the waves that bounce back from the objects coming in its way and then return to the sensor where the microphone picks it up. Like the LiDAR sensors, we measure the time it takes the wave to travel out and back, and then the distance is calculated using the speed of sound or air.

3D Robot Vision

It is essential to understand three-dimensional objects to familiarize robots with different aspects of our lives, especially in our homes. Although robots can see objects and their surroundings through cameras and sensors, understanding them from a single glimpse is more complicated.

The robots also use a perception algorithm developed by a Duke University graduate and his thesis supervisor to detect the objects, orientation, and imagine any part of the item that may be out of view. The algorithm was developed with 4,000 complete 3D scans of everyday household objects, including the assortment of beds, chairs, desks, monitors, etc.

Each scan was then broken down to 10,000 voxels stacked on top of one another to make processing easier. The algorithm learned different categories of objects, their similarities, and differences with probabilistic principal component analysis, enabling it to understand what the new item is – without going through its entire catalog for a match.

Robotic Eyes – A Helpful Invention

Robots can achieve sight with the help of high-tech cameras and sensors. The discovery of such a possibility has changed the field of robotics entirely. Projects are made and designed to see who makes the best robot, which can benefit us and make our lives easier.

In short, it is a huge step forward in the field of technology. Soon, robots will be able to perform much of the tasks that we are used to performing ourselves, with the ability to interact with the surroundings and react accordingly.