|Mobile Robot Systems for
Homeland and Commercial Security
Since man first recognized the
potential usefulness and value of mobile robots, it was felt that
their value was in performing tasks that were physical in nature.
Vacuuming, lawn mowing, doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, dusting
furniture, walking the dog and washing windows are but a few of the
physical tasks we have been expecting the first autonomous, mobile
personal robots to perform for us. Although there is a great deal
of validity to this view, this focus on physical tasks leaves a great
deal of usefulness and utility unrecognized.
Expanding the potential for the PCR,
we notice our own vision system is not nearly that of a hawk's and
our hearing range and accuracy is vastly inferior to that of a bat.
Dogs have much better hearing than humans do and man cannot smell
as accurately as most wild animals, nor sense body heat as many snakes
can. At best, man's senses offer only a keyhole view of the world
in which we live. Most of the electromagnetic spectrum is simply not
available to man's senses without special instrumentation.
If a mobile, autonomous robot were
equipped with sensor systems it could hear and smell as good as a
dog, see as well as a hawk, and sense heat (infrared radiation) like
a pit viper. This autonomous, service robot with its enhanced senses
could protect our dwellings and loved ones in ways that no living
creature can. For example, the CareBot PCR's have self-mapping software
that is sensor friendly - it is easy to add sensors. The GeckoBrain's
software maps (measures distances) of the robot's environment using
three fundamental methods: sonar and infrared (IR) range finding,
and tactile, or bump sensing. The addition of machine vision, sound
listening, and directional heat sensing will provide other mapping
Sensor friendly refers to the robots'
ability to not only memorizing distances to walls, chairs, tables,
and their proximity to each other, but to also, map its environment
according to temperature, smell, and even sounds, assuming the appropriate
sensor systems are in place. This ability to monitor a commercial
environment in ways difficult, if not impossible for man, gives rise
new applications in the commercial security and fire detection marketplaces.
For nearly twenty years, the
technology that detects human body heat from distances of several
hundred feet has been developed and its cost reduced, due to the U.S.
space exploration effort. The infrared night vision goggles used by
the military shift or map the invisible infrared to light wavelengths
visible to the human eye. Several firms now produce this technology
capable of discerning a person up to two or three hundred feet away
with sensor costs in the tens of dollars.
Recently this technology is showing up in the automotive engine
compartment-troubleshooting arena. By aiming the handheld digital
IR temperature gauge at suspected hot spots under the vehicles hood,
the mechanic quickly determines any abnormally hot areas and therefore
potentially in need of repair or replacement. These handheld units
sell for less than $200.
With these off-the-shelf IR detectors, autonomous mobile robot
intruders, possibly using a process called exception reporting. When
heat or sound sources that should not be in a given area are detected,
an exception is noted and security uses the video camera on board
the PCR to further investigate the activities of this unidentified
intruder without exposing themselves to potential harm. A squad of
PCR's can patrol a complex with only a single person monitoring their
activities, greatly reducing the cost of human personnel. Upon initial
notification and observation of a possible intruder, multiple backup
security enabled mobile robots could hem in the alleged intruder.
The security person could be monitoring the situation through the
multiple, mobile video cameras of the squad of PCR's on video displays.
Instead of six-person crew, a facility or complex could use a
crew supported by six security bots. Since there are fewer low level
guards needed, the remaining guards can be higher paid due to the
need for some computer literacy. With the higher pay and less chance
of being directly in harms way, turnover should be reduced dramatically
while facility coverage is improved with the heightened senses of
the mobile, autonomous securitybots. Security enabled CareBot PCR's
are sold in small volumes for as low as $10,000 each and will last
three to five years (depending on usage).