Optical MEMS Enable Next Generation Solutions for Robot Vision and Human-Robot Interaction

Daniel Lovell, Veljko Milanovic, Abhishek Kasturi, Frank Hu, Karan Soni, Derek Ho, Bryan H. Atwood, Lj Ristic, Xiaomeng Liu, and Sanjeev J. Koppal
Paper (SPI OPTO 2022)

Robots and drones are presently in the industry’s focus to serve a critical role in Industry 4.0 and the Transportation Revolution. Integration of robots and drones in these areas improves efficiency and safety, adds flexibility in operation, and reduces operating costs. However, they are still far from achieving the optimal performance needed to execute autonomous tasks at high levels. As these platforms are battery operated, all sub-systems that augment their capabilities must be low-power solutions. In the case of airborne drones, it is also critical that solutions are ultra-light weight and of small form factor. Additionally, robots will be employed in the modern working environment in tandem with humans, but adequate human-robot interaction and intention communication solutions do not currently exist. Consequently, MEMS mirrors-based sensing and interaction systems designed for robots and drones are essential as they offer solutions with the lowest power consumption, weight, and cost in high volume. However, existing MEMS Mirror based solutions have not achieved the necessary compactness and efficiency for robotics. In this paper we describe and demonstrate MEMS Mirror-based 3D perception sensing (SyMPL 3D Lidar) and animated visual messaging (Vector Graphics Laser Projection with Playzer) systems optimized for robots and drones. These sub systems each consume <1W in power, at least 10x lower than other solutions in the market, weigh <50g, and have small form factors. Furthermore, we will show that combining these two systems leads to new capabilities and functionalities that meet the demands of robot vision and human-robot interaction.

Watch the conference presentation here.