01/05/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/05/2023 09:25

Latest optical sensing technology lights the way ahead for new robot designs

A Mira image sensor can be used both for 3D sensing (in combination with 940nm IR emitters), as well as providing video image outputs to enable object recognition and other artificial intelligence (AI) functions. New use cases for imaging robots are emerging all the time, such as service robots collecting garbage from city streets. The combination of image sensing and AI allows the robot to identify and collect waste items correctly.

Integration of emitters and image sensors into a 3D sensing system can be eased by use of a reference design kit - the Oclea 3D Vision SDK from Teknique is particularly helpful. It provides a plug-and-play development platform for direct integration into the robot system of choice.

If 3D scanning accuracy is less crucial for the robot's application use case and algorithmically simpler obstacle detection is already sufficient, multi-zone direct time-of-flight sensors could be the sensing solution of choice. These TMF882X sensors can be easily paired to scanning arrays with wider field of view or even combined with image based 3D scanning solutions for system wake-up if ultimate low-power design is required.


Advanced sensors to identify materials

A robot's environment awareness will not be limited just navigation and collision avoidance. In a robotic floor cleaner, for instance, a spectral sensing IC such as the AS7343 can detect flooring materials, distinguishing wool from polyester from wood from ceramics. Besides material categorization, ams OSRAM's spectral sensors can also perform accurate measurements, to enable cleaning operations to be automatically optimized for the type of floor.
Spectral measurements made by a spectral sensor more accurately identify flooring materials than a visual camera backed by complex algorithms, and are simpler to implement: the sensor system relies only on machine learning-based algorithms to match an acquired spectral pattern with a reference sample stored in memory.

​​​​​​Light signals for communication with people

Optical technology can be used to signal to the outside world, as well as to sense the world around the robot.

New light projection technology provides an ideal method for a robot to signal intention. In the automotive sector, ams OSRAM has pioneered the implementation of projection lighting through micro-lens arrays to display, for instance, turn signals on to the road surface below the wing mirror.

In a robot, a micro-lens array could project symbols such as left-turn or right-turn arrows, or a set of pulsing rings surrounding the robot to indicate the extent of its safety zone, as the picture below shows. By communicating information and intention with light, the robot can guide humans to step out of its way more intuitively or navigate smoothly around it, without annoying alarm sounds or slowing the movement either of the robot or the person.


Advanced optical technology brings new value to robotics

Innovation in robotics is bringing exciting new use cases to the market. In many of them, robots will need to interact spontaneously and autonomously with people and objects in their environment. Advanced optical technologies from ams OSRAM for sensing and illumination provide the foundation for the development of this next generation of robots.