Analytics Insight

How Embedded Vision is helping build the autonomous robots of tomorrow

by industry trends December 7, 2022

Cameras are a vital part of autonomous mobile robots. They are used in various places such as warehouses, retail stores, hospitals, outdoors and more. Get in-depth insights into the different camera-enabled functions of these robots, and learn how cameras become their “eyes”.

Artificial intelligence, edge-based processing, and advances in camera technology have helped us make great strides in developing fully autonomous mobile robots (or AMR) capable of efficiently executing human tasks. From autonomous navigation and material handling in warehouses, to carrying out various tasks on farms, robots can now perform many jobs that were previously thought impossible or too complex for them.

In enabling this human-machine collaboration for robots in warehouses, retail stores, agricultural fields, classrooms, hospitals, and factories, among other places, integrated vision and camera systems are critical. These vision systems, the eyes and ears of autonomous mobile robots, are making life easier in nearly every industry, including agriculture, industry, retail, education and medicine.

How vision systems embedded in autonomous mobile robots work

Robotic systems that can complete their functions autonomously with little or no human supervision are known as autonomous mobile robots. In order to achieve this, AMR must see and understand their environment well, often making judgments in real time. Integrated vision technology is useful in this situation.

The integration of camera modules into embedded electronics is what is meant by the term “embedded vision” (like a robot). The ability for cameras in AMRs to help them navigate safely around their intended environment is one (if not the only) of their primary mission. This requires the use of specialized camera types that have been carefully constructed and combined to produce the right images and movies.

Autonomous mobile robots are now being used in a variety of locations and related purposes, including:

Transforming warehouse operations

A labor shortage has led warehouse owners to automate many tasks, and robots have played a major role in this by positively affecting loading and unloading of materials, moving goods, picking and placing items, and more. Here are the different types of camera-enabled robots used in warehouses:

  1. Commodity-to-person robots: These autonomous vehicles use cameras to measure depth for the purpose of seamless navigation
  2. Pick and place robots: They accurately pick and place items to and from warehouse shelves. This is made possible by using cameras to locate and, in some cases, recognize the object.
  3. Automated forklifts: These are forklifts equipped with cameras that use vision to facilitate the loading, unloading, lifting, and transportation of heavy objects.
  4. Inventory tracking robots and drones: used to monitor warehouse inventory and inventory. Cameras are used to read barcodes/RFIDs and to recognize objects.
  5. Robotic arms: These can be small or large arms that are usually used for industrial purposes – material handling, machinery care, heavy lifting, etc. Here, cameras help in detecting, identifying and locating the objects to be handled.

Automate last mile delivery

Robotic delivery services are used both at home and abroad; For example to bring food, parcels and other things. It works similarly when used indoors including offices, hospitals and restaurants.

Cameras are mostly used in delivery robots to assess depth and monitor packages being delivered. Unlike the latter, where cameras are often installed inside the car, the former have cameras that are directed outward.

Facilitate monitoring and security

Patrol bots are sophisticated surveillance tools that can monitor buildings and grounds around the clock to detect theft, intrusion, or other illegal behavior. A multi-camera system that can produce a 360-degree view is often used because they need to get a complete picture of their surroundings. Since they sometimes need to move around in crowded areas, the robots will also need cameras to ensure safe navigation.

Help grow more and better food

Autonomous tractors, harvesting robots, robotic lawnmowers, and other similar machines are examples of autonomous agricultural vehicles and robots. They need cameras to automate basic agricultural chores including tilling, spreading fertilizer, detecting pests and weeds, picking fruits and vegetables, harvesting crops, and monitoring NDVI (Natural Plant Variance Index), among others. Agricultural robots use cameras for autonomous navigation as do other robots.

Enhance retail shopping experiences

In the age of physical shopping and online shopping, AMR is used to enhance both customer and employee experience in retail organizations. Here are some examples of what AMRs do:

  1. Shoppers can use concierge services to find the things or area they are looking for.
  2. Curbside Pickup: To complete online purchases, bots can take merchandise to a curbside pickup area at the retail location.
  3. Shelf control: This is done to monitor the inventory on the shelves so that the retail staff can replace the shelves in a timely manner.
  4. Employees can help customers from a distance using telepresence bots to call and assist remotely. It is also possible to use these bots to communicate with employees.

Positively influence the medical industry

Robots are used in telehealth devices, robotic surgery, in vitro diagnostics, drug delivery (automated medical carts) in hospitals, and other areas of the medical industry. Robots make life easier for both patients and staff by enabling effective communication, timely care and treatment, and performing medical procedures.

Cameras help these robots perform a variety of tasks, including picking up and placing objects, patient-practitioner communication, reading barcodes and text, identifying objects, and navigating.


Author: Maharajan Veerabahu, Co-Founder and Vice President Electronic subscription systems

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