Scientists from MIT have presented a new robot that can autonomously search for objects that are buried in the ground. In this case, people will not be in danger.
The researchers explained that robots can autonomously find objects that are in plain sight. However, devices have problems when they need to look for objects that are below the surface of the earth. Robots have to tacitly make their way through the sand, and wireless technologies like radar only give a fuzzy idea of what is below. Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a robot that can sift through granular material like sand and find objects.
The machine is an improved version of an earlier tactile sensor, in which a transparent gel was combined with a reflective membrane – it flexed on contact with objects. LEDs shine through the gel onto a membrane, and a camera captures the reflection to help computer vision determine the three-dimensional shape of objects underneath. The robot distinguishes sand from the object it needs to remove.
The new robot is thinner and simpler, it moves thanks to a robotic arm, as well as vibrations that help it dig in the sand. He can turn and move differently to get an idea of the size of the object.
The researchers note that they need to do a few more tweaks – for example, tweaking the movement to identify different substances. However, scientists already now suggest that it can be used to find mines, and in the process people will not be exposed to danger. They also added that the device is easy to use in large scale archaeological operations.