We’ve already seen Qbo complete great feats of recognizing itself and its other robot partner. Now the Corpra is upgrading their small bot with the ability to map out its surrounding environment and exploring it on its own.
This time around, the Corpra engineers have upgraded Qbo with an ASUS’s Xtion Pro Live sensor. It’s a 3D motion-sensing camera similar to the Kinect, but it's lighter-weight and more appropriate for Qbo’s small plastic frame.
With the sensor placed on top of Qbo’s head like a crown, the bot can assemble a 3D point-cloud, and then use that data to map its surroundings. Qbo already comes equipped with stereoscopic vision thanks to its two HD cameras, but the Xtion sensor makes its visual perception much more sophisticated.
The point of the research is to make Qbo an autonomous explorer that can adapt to its environment. The video showcases Qbo’s ability to reach a marker without initially knowing what its surroundings look like, or using any preprogrammed route. Instead, it has to analyze its surroundings, find its own way, avoid obstacles, and keep track of its movements with its on-board odometry sensor and gyroscopes.
It might seem like a tiny step, but when was the last time you had to set an IR barrier to stop your Roomba from venturing outside of your living room? Most mobile robots are still either programed with a route or remote controlled, so a robot that can adapt to its surroundings is kind of a big deal.
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