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May 22, 2011

Mtg: High-Tech Robotics for Consumer Applications

by @ 2:30 pm. Filed under ALL, Communications, Computers/Software, Electronics Design, Optics/Displays

TUESDAY May 24, 2011
SCV Consumer Electronics Chapter
Speaker: David Wyland, Senior Scientist, Neato Robotics
Time: Pizza and Networking at 6:30 PM; Presentation at 7:00 PM
Cost: members – $5; non-members – $10; IEEE Student members – free (pay at door)
Place: NVIDIA, Building E, 2800 Scott Blvd, Santa Clara
RSVP: from website

The Neato Robotics XV-11 is a high tech robotic vacuum cleaner that competes favorably with traditional manual upright vacuums. It is a fully automatic unit that vacuums your house, including handling the tough problems of rugs and pet hair. The XV-11 is one of the leaders in the new wave of consumer robots that work in home, office and outdoor applications. These new â?? field??? robots, are aware of their environment. They â??see??? their surroundings and navigate within them. They deal with continually changing environments where people, animals and furniture move around, appear and disappear. Yet they must do their job, even as the changes occur. This is a fundamental change from the fixed, predictable environments of factory robots.
Field robots deal with their changing environments by measuring and mapping them, creating a map that is continuously updated. Using a map, you can plan paths for the robot to take and record where it has been. The XV-11 uses its map to show open areas for vacuuming, obstacles to be avoided and areas vacuumed or yet to be vacuumed. The map is continuously updated because people and animals can wander through, represented as transient obstacles. Extensions to the mapping include identifying doors and rooms connected by the doors.
Mapping lets the robot vacuum detect when it is done, as in when it has vacuumed over all open spaces. It can clean a room in one pass. This has advantages: 1) It takes less time, 25% or less than earlier bump-and-turn approaches, 2) It makes sure that the job has been done â?? that the whole room has been vacuumed, and 3) Because it gets done in ¼ the time, you can use 4X more powerful motors for the vacuuming, using the same batteries. This allows the design of a powerful, consumer grade vacuum.
The XV-11 uses techniques from the DARPA Challenge, where robot cars found their way 170 miles across a desert to a goal. Like the XV-11, they also used laser range distance measurement, mapping and path planning algorithms. This new ability of robots to â??see,??? map and plan their way through a task will open up many new applications for field robots. A significant amount of human effort is spent in moving things around. This is why inventions like the wheel, the boat, the horse drawn cart, the steam train, the airplane and the automobile are so important. They each allow people to move more and heavier things, faster, over longer distances. The field robot promises to be another such invention, moving things locally. Consider that everything you buy involves moving it from the manufacturer through â?? literally â?? many hands (including your own) before it arrives in your house for use. And inside your house, the table must be set, the dishes and clothes washed and put away and the kidsâ?? toys picked up â?? every day. Wouldnâ??t it be nice to have robots to do this for us?
As part of this revolution, the XV-11 moves the dust from your carpet to a removable dust bin. Itâ??s a start.

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