Feeds

iRobot inks deal for laser-radar droidvision sensors

Now the machines can follow you into the building

Intelligent flash storage arrays

iRobot, provider of ground warbots to the US forces and purveyor of domestic droids to the comfortably off consumer, has struck a deal allowing it to use laser-scanning technology in its future designs. Reports have it that the kit could be in use in 2009; though this would be with the military, not on the company's famous line of autonomous "Roomba" floor-cleaners.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the laser-vision system - also known as "ladar", as it is effectively a laser-light version of radar rather than a camera - is provided by Advanced Scientific Concepts of California. iRobot has also bought shares in ASC, as well as inking the exclusive marketing and technology deal.

The new gear is intended to solve one of the most difficult problems in autonomous ground-mobile machines - that of generating a useable 3D map of what lies ahead. Humans can do a good job of this using stereoscopic 2D vision, but thus far software has struggled to interpret ordinary camera imagery in a way that robots can use. This has tended to mean that robots which rely on cameras as sensors need to be operated remotely by humans; which in turn calls for a high-bandwidth, low-latency datalink and expensive dedicated personnel.

One solution is to use radar, which maps objects in relation to the detector, but even millimetre-wave radar becomes hard to use in the close, cluttered environments which robots must navigate. The ASC systems will use brief pulses of laser light instead of radio or microwaves, thus perhaps allowing autonomous operations inside buildings - an attractive option in iRobot's main markets. The 5-nanosecond pulses will be eye-safe, apparently.

Ladar detection has already been used in this way, perhaps most famously in the DARPA Grand Challenge robot-car competitions where contenders face similar problems to iRobot. However the Grand Challenge vehicle ladars were mostly unsuitable for production, and for the indoor applications iRobot has in mind. ASC's "laser flash" technology, originally developed for aerial mapping, is nearer being ready to go.

iRobot believes it might have ladar on military combat droids in 12 to 18 months, and thereafter on its household machines at some unspecified date.®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.