Researchers including an Indian-origin scientist from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have found that a camera attached to the robot's hand can rapidly create a 3D model of its environment and also locate the hand within that 3D world. They have found out that they can improve the accuracy of the map by incorporating the arm itself as a sensor, using the angle of its joints to better determine the pose of the camera. This will be important for a number of applications including conducting inspection tasks.
In mobile robotics there is a popular solution called simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) in which, the robot pieces together input from sensors such as cameras, laser radars and wheel odometry to create a 3D map of the new environment. The researchers demonstrated their Articulated Robot Motion for SLAM (ARM-SLAM) using a small depth camera attached to a lightweight manipulator arm - the Kinova Mico.
Speaking on the research Siddhartha Srinivasa, Associate Professor of robotics CMU says, "Placing a camera or other sensor in the hand of a robot has become feasible as sensors have grown smaller and more power-efficient. That is important because robots usually have heads that consist of a stick with a camera on it. In using it to build a 3-D model of a bookshelf, they found that it produced reconstructions equivalent or better to other mapping techniques…..We still have much to do to improve this approach, but we believe it has huge potential for robot manipulation”.
The researchers presented their findings at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.