Innorobo 2018, 15-17 May, Paris, France
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Safer approaches to robot navigation and collision avoidance

Challenging the conventional

Terabee is a sensor and sensing solutions company prepared to challenge the status quo and think outside the box. With a background in lightweight mobile robotics, Terabee created the TeraRanger brand of distance sensors to meet the demands of fast-moving air and ground robots, including navigation and anti-collision. And whilst sensor hardware is important, it is not the only consideration in creating safe and robust solutions.

 

Plug and play multi-axis sensing

Terabee has always focussed on developing sensors and solutions that are small and lightweight and with high data refresh rates. A TeraRanger One for example weighs just 8g, and has data refresh rates as high as 1000 readings per second. But knowing many in the robotics world would often need to use multiple sensors at the same time, we also designed-in support for multi-sensor, multi-axis requirements. Using a central ‘hub’ we can connect up to eight sensors to provide a simple to use, plug and play approach for simultaneous multi-sensor applications. By controlling the sequence in which sensors are fired (along with some other parameters) we are able to limit, or eliminate, the potential for sensor cross-talk and then stream an array of calibrated distance values in millimetres, at high speed. From a user’s’ perspective this is about as simple as it gets, since the hub also centralises power management.

 

There’s no need to get in a spin!

Using that same concept we developed a new approach to LiDAR scanning too – not just from a hardware point of view (although that is also different) but from a conceptual approach too. We’ve taken the same philosophy of small size, lightweight sensors with very high refresh rates and applied that to create a new style of static LiDAR. Rather than rotating a sensor or using other mechanical methods to move a beam, TeraRanger Tower simultaneously monitors eight axis (or more if you stack multiple units together) and streams an array of data at up to 270Hz!

 

Challenging the point-cloud conundrum

With no motors or other moving parts the hardware itself has many advantages, being silent, lightweight and robust, but there is also a secondary benefit from the data. Traditional thinking amongst the robotics community is that to perform navigation, Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) and collision avoidance you have to “see” everything around you. Subsequently people focus on complicated solutions – like stereo vision – gathering millions of data points which then requires complex and resource-hungry processing. The complexity of the solution – and of the algorithms – has the potential to create many failure modes. Our approach is different in that, we monitor fewer points, but we monitor them at very fast refresh rates to ensure that what we think we see, is really there. As a result we build less intense point clouds, but with very reliable data. This then requires less complex algorithms and processing and can be done with lighter-weight computing. The result is a more robust, and potentially safer solution, especially when you can make some assumptions about your environment, or harness odometry data to augment the LiDAR data. Many times we were told you could never do SLAM monitoring just eight points, but we proved that wrong!

 

Recently we mounted a TeraRanger Tower to a drone to show that a static LiDAR can also be used for drone anti-collision. For more information, see us at Innorobo, visit www.teraranger.com or email teraranger@terabee.com.

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