Visualizing the Unseen: Harnessing SWIR Sensing for Robotics’ Vision Challenges
We are currently witnessing a pivotal moment in the world of robotics as it is experiencing an extraordinary rise in demand, reaching unprecedented heights. Latest reports estimate that Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) sales have exceeded $2Bn in sales in 2022. According to estimates, AMRs will encompass 20% of the total warehouse robotics market in the next 5 years. The driving force behind implementing AMRs is fueled by their ability to improve operational efficiencies and to support continued growth with a tight labor market.
Currently, robot autonomy and safety is dependent on the use of a combination of sensors, including cameras and 3D LiDAR, that operate well at short ranges and under indoor conditions. But existing solutions fall short in dynamic environments without precise localization and mapping. In order to begin operation, robots typically rely on an initial map of their environment and continually compare real time sensor data to update their original map and avoid obstacles. This is especially crucial as warehouses and factories are increasing in size, incorporating more robots and are spreading across multiple buildings within a site.
The key to increase the use of AMR systems is to improve sensor capabilities by adopting SWIR sensors with high resolution 3D depth sensing. 3D SWIR sensors can operate seamlessly indoors and outdoors at higher eye-safe illumination levels to provide longer range, better object detection and classification, and better safety performance.
Understanding Key Vision Challenges in Automation
When a robot’s navigation systems can’t determine the location of the robot within their environment, its default is to STOP, avoiding collisions, damages and injuries, but halting all operations.
As such, reliable sensing is an essential part of perception systems, enabling automation and improving operations within agriculture, robotics and automotive sectors. However, existing sensing technologies encounter limited outdoor performance when faced with environmental factors such as sunlight and dust, which leads to challenges in the system’s capabilities.
Robotics applications currently rely on Near Infrared (NIR) 3D sensing solutions, which are typically limited to a range of less than 5 meters due to dangerous laser power levels at those wavelengths. Additionally, when operated in outdoor settings these visible and NIR solutions are affected by background light emanating from the sun.
Unlocking Perception Capabilities with SEDAR
Leveraging the SWIR spectrum and its unique benefits, the TriEye SEDAR (Spectrum Enhanced Detection and Ranging) enables resilience to ambient noise, illumination that is completely eye safe, high accuracy, up to 40 million depth points per second, and operation at higher spatial resolution than existing LiDARs. By simultaneously providing two streams of high definition 2D SWIR image and deterministic 3D depth information, the SEDAR reduces the number of sensors needed and thus minimizes system size and computational requirements while also providing information that can only be found in the SWIR wavelength.
TriEye’s SEDAR can be leveraged to solve complex sensing challenges in the industrial and robotics markets, providing highly accurate, high resolution sensing information under all lighting and weather conditions. And, this is all done without any moving parts to dramatically improve the system reliability and uptime.
Implementing the SEDAR will enable robotics platforms to access the unique sensing capabilities of the Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) spectrum, and ultimately enable localization, mapping, and collision avoidance, while significantly improving outdoor performance, safety, and operational efficiency. Additionally, SEDAR is highly customizable and can be configured to provide depth sensing up to 60 meters with a wide field of view.
Putting it into Perspective
The future of robotics is here and already making an impact. AMR is enabling a new generation of automation with improved operability and safety across several markets. Leveraging the SEDAR, AMR systems will be able to access the realm of SWIR and reach new levels of operation within all environments.
About the Author
David Cheskis serves as the Senior Product Director at TriEye. David is an expert in semiconductor devices and technologies. He earned his PhD and MS degree in Electrical Engineering and BSEE in Microelectronic Engineering.