AI News, Urban Robots Could Use Manholes to Navigate

Urban Robots Could Use Manholes to Navigate

GPS is generally the standard to which all other localization technologies are compared, and in most outdoor environments, it's hard to beat for accuracy, precision, and reliability.

A common strategy is to use wheel odometers or inertial measurement units to 'guess' where the robot has gotten to since its last external position fix, but accuracy still relies on landmarks to help correct for errors.

Sounds great, and it works in tests along with a database of pre-scanned manhole covers, except that generally, you tend to find manhole covers in the middle of the street, implying that a system like this would be best for autonomous cars as opposed to other robots that might not do as well running into traffic to determine their position.

Future Robots Could Use Manhole Covers To Navigate Through Cities

Forget GPS and streaming video — future legions of city-dwelling robots may navigate using manhole covers.

The ubiquitous round metallic covers each have different shapes and sizes, occasionally for the sake of aesthetics and certainly when you account for wear and tear.

But environmental factors can skew the data from these sources, Fujii writes — GPS isn't always reliable in cities, and Street View may not be so not helpful at night.

Robots would be able to find the covers using a metal detector, and swipe some kind of scanner across the covers to cross-check the database and figure out where they are.

Manhole cover

A manhole cover is a removable plate forming the lid over the opening of a manhole, to prevent anyone or anything from falling in, and to keep out unauthorized persons and material.

According to Remo Camerota, the author of a book on the subject titled Drainspotting, 95% of Japanese municipalities have their own cover design, often with colorful inlaid paint.[2] Despite their weight and cumbersome nature, manhole covers are sometimes stolen, usually for resale as scrap, particularly when metal prices rise.[3][4][5][6] The question of why manhole covers are typically round (in some countries) was made famous by Microsoft when they began asking it as a job-interview question.[7] Originally meant as a psychological assessment of how one approaches a question with more than one correct answer, the problem has produced a number of alternative explanations, from the tautological ('Manhole covers are round because manholes are round.')[7] to the philosophical.

Lane was electrocuted after stepping on a metal manhole cover, while walking her dog in New York City.[10] As result of this and other incidents, increased attention has been focused on these hazards, including technical conferences on stray voltage detection and prevention.[11] Because of their aerodynamic design, some modern racing cars create enough vacuum to lift a manhole cover off its recess.

robotics research paper in 2011 suggested that robots could examine the shapes of specific manhole covers and use them to calculate their geographic position, as a double-check on GPS data.[14] The manufacturing process for a metal manhole covers consists of six steps: The European norm EN 124 of 1994 applies to manhole and gully tops with a clear opening up to 1 m for areas subjected to pedestrian or vehicular traffic (covers with a clear opening over 1 m are specified in the British Standard BS9124 for example).[16] EN 124 specifies several weight classes depending on the application and is also being used in some countries outside the European Union.

The heaviest F900 class manhole cover would typically be used in docks, airports and other extreme heavy-duty applications.[17] EN 124 does not apply for gratings of prefabricated drainage channels (according to EN 1433) or floor and roof gullies in buildings (specified in EN 1253-1).[16] The Fabricated Access Covers Trade Association (FACTA) provides its own specification which came into effect in 2013.

9 best robot lawnmowers

If you groan every time you remember the grass needs cutting, then it may be time to consider a robotic mower.

Other good news (for the environment anyway) is that all robotic mowers are mulching, meaning they cut up the grass into fine clippings and scatter them back on the lawn to feed the soil with nutrients.  When buying a robotic mower, make sure it’s suitable for the size and shape of your garden - remembering that some of the more expensive ones are really only worth it if you have a big plot.

But it does take a whopping 16 hours to charge up again, so make sure you plan ahead.  Buy now  This one copes with huge plots of up to 4000 square metres (equivalent to half a football pitch) even when the grass is wet, plus you can communicate with it wirelessly using your smartphone.

Unlike many other robotic mowers that work in random patterns, this one does its job in consecutive rows so that no spot is missed, though it won’t leave stripes.  Buy now  Although this can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet, you’ll probably prefer to control it via the easy-to-use control panel, not only because of its bright LCD display, but because it can be removed from the machine, which is great for avoiding a bad back.

Buy now  The racing car of the robotic mower world (it even looks like one), this is excellent for complicated lawns, including obstacles, narrow passages, bumpy terrain and slopes of up to 45 per cent – and it works well in the rain too.

This robo mower can also cope with bigger gardens better than the cheaper models in this round-up (of up to 600 square metres) and if that’s still not big enough for your needs, then there’s an advanced version (ROB R1000) to cover 1000 square metres.

Installation is fairly simple, with a barely perceptible 1mm wire placed around the perimeter of the lawn, and then down the middle – the latter position acting as a beacon for when the machine automatically returns to the docking station, either after a completed cut or when it needs recharging.

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A manhole cover is a removable plate forming the lid over the opening of a manhole, to prevent anyone or anything from falling in, and to keep out unauthorized persons and material. Manhole...

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