Our Friends over at MobileRobots recently had this article posted about their Mapper Bot. The article got us thinking about how we all need to follow their lead and seek out more areas where robotics can be used to take over the work of current repetitive human tasks. In a time where everyone is searching for real world applications to apply existing robotic technology to it looks like Mobile Robots is onto something. When technology is cost effective and can accurately reproduce a human task we see it successfully become integrated into regular use. Mobile Robots has applied just this concept to having robots do mapping work for us fallible sluggish humans.
â€œUsing a combination of an onboard PC with laser-range finders, and an optional integrated pan and tilt zoom camera, the MapperBot is able to accurately collect GIS data, and display the results in a 2-D or even an extruded 3-D diagram.
This is beneficial in the many areas, including building maintenance, automated inventory, security systems, or even making buildings ready for other robots to take over.â€?
Beneficial indeed, as our brilliant readers have probably already thought of, robot mapping isnâ€™t just good for exporting data, but also for being used in navigational systems.
So if the robotic platform is smart enough to map its environment, what happens when it can recognize where it is on the map? The term “Spatially Intelligent” defines a robotic entity which can determine its location by comparing the spatial data it has in memory to those which it sees in real-time through a combination of onboard sensors. Once localized, it understands the space and can dynamically navigate its surroundings. Adding specialized sensors enables the creation of focused missions for the autonomous agent, capable of patrolling the building while sending back sampling data about the environment.
MobileRobotâ€™s Mapperbot is obviously an industrial level robot which will have an industrial level price tag. A lower grade version of a mapping robot could be built using some low cost distance sensors, a mini-PC, and a wheelbot chassis for a home or school project.
Mapping and searching has been a continual theme for robotics. Robots have been used to image pipelines, search for victims at disaster sites, and now for mapping buildings. Miniature robotic-like cameras have been evolving in the surgery room for years. New robotic pills are emerging which can monitor the temperature of athletes or even intelligently clamp on to your stomach wall to hang around and investigate. Itâ€™s all about getting to places we cannot (or can but faster) to do a job or retrieve important data. Itâ€™s obvious that this is an area where robotics can help us humans in many ways, even inside our own bodies. What other areas can you think of where mapping robots would be useful?
Alex Ward & Matt Trossen