IEEE Computer Volume 12 Number 6 -- NEW APPLICATIONS & RECENT RESEARCH
Original Publication Date: 1979-Jun-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-10
Software Patent Institute
Prof. Demetrios Michalopoulos: AUTHOR [+2]
NEW APPLICATIONS & RECENT RESEARCH * NBS industrial robot keeps an eye on its work * New data bases to focus on renewable energy
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NEW APPLICATIONS & RECENT RESEARCH
Prof. Demetrios Michalopoulos
California State University, Fullerton
NBS industrial robot keeps an eye on its work
Researchers at the National Bureau of Standards have demonstrated a new system to give industrial robots simple powers of vision.
The NBS roboticists hope that their "eye" -- built with a microprocessor, sobdstate TV camera, and strobe light source -- can be developed into a low-cost system allowing robots to locate objects anywhere in their range of operation and to adjust themselves to grasp the object from the proper angle.
Unlike its fictional colleagues, the typical industrial robot -- a vise-like hand and rotating wrist on the end of an extendable arm -- is quite limited in what it can do. Such machines are used to perform simple, repetitive tasks, especially in environments dangerous to human workers.
Although robot systems can greatly improve efficiency and quality control, they have limited use outside of large, massproduction operations because of their inflexibility. The typical robot, for example, can only pick up objects which have been left in precisely the place and orientation that the robot expects. The robot may shove aside or crush any part positioned slightly off- center. The NBS system is one of a handful of attempts to solve this problem by giving robots a crude sense of sight that can be used to guide the robot hand to the proper object -- even if the target is not precisely where it should be or even if it is at a random location.
To give their robot vision, the NBS team under Dr. Gordon VanderBrug mounted a small solid- state television camera on the robot s wrist, looking down between the machine's two "fingers." Somewhat nearsighted, the robot can only see for a distance of about one meter. A strobe light, mounted just below the wrist, flashes a narrow plane of light outward from the robot hand at the command of the computer which controls the hand. The robot "sees" an object as a narrow line of light across the object. From the position and apparent shape of the line in its field of view, the robot deduces the object's distance, angle, and orientation. If the robot is not in the right position to pick the object up, it will move to a new location, take another look, and try again.
The robot uses a flash gun to provide light for the TV "eye. " A feedback system, which compares the TV...