Geo Week News

January 17, 2011

3D laser scanning and the market for autonomy

I’d say it’s something of a central tenet here at SPAR that it’s not so much the 3D images that a laser scanner collects that we care about, but what people are doing with those images. Sometimes, that means how the images are displayed. Sometimes it’s the data that can be derived from the images. In the case of the burgeoning robotics industry, it’s definitely the data produced by laser scanning that’s of value and interest. 

As of late, I’ve been working on a paper concerning the use of 3D laser scanning in mining environments, and much of the discussion has surrounded the use of scanners to guide robots into places where humans can’t, or really don’t want to, go. Deep underground where it’s exceptionally hot, for example. 

You’ll see more about that soon, but for the short term, this robotic demonstration from CES caught my eye and ought to get your wheels turning. IRobot’s new AVA uses laser scanning to keep it from bumping into things and makes it capable of navigating complicated environments (it’s their vacuum cleaner with an articulating head, basically). 

Check it out:

In this case, the application for the robot is still being developed. The robot’s purpose is literally to get you think about what’s possible. But I sure don’t have a hard time thinking of ways to use that kind of ability and I’m guessing you’ve got some ideas as well. 

Agriculture: A robot that uses laser scanning to harvest crops without waste or bumping into things. 

Retail: Robots that circulate the store with samples or specials.

Security: Robots that patrol areas and capture video so cameras don’t have to be fixed and humans don’t have to be put in harm’s way. 

Search and Rescue: Robots that explore dangerous buildings that have been partially collapsed during an earthquake.

That’s just off the top of my head. 

And how about “collision proof” wheelchairs? That’s what GeckoSystems is working on, using structured light.

The market for laser scanning and autonomy is admittedly very nascent at the moment, but maybe we’ll get those Google cars in mass production eventually. 

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