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Sixdof for Robotics

The next topic in our series of articles addresses the questions: “Where does the notion of 6dof fit in the robotics space in general, and how does Sixdof Space technology, in particular, benefit robotic systems?

According to a quick Google search, the definition of a robot is:

a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically.”

And what is the definition of “6dof?” According to a Wikipedia entry:

Six degrees of freedom (6dof) refers to the six mechanical degrees of freedom of movement of a rigid body in three-dimensional space.”

The Sixdof Space platform is at the intersection of these two definitions as an enabling technology to provide a user with real-time mapping of a robot’s 6dof movement.

Robotics has revolutionized industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, aerospace, and a long list of others. Robots perform complex tasks such as, for example, picking up an object from one location, rotating it in any direction, and placing it in another location — all with great precision.

Tracking these movements is where the Sixdof Space technology plays an important role.

Let’s begin with a scenario in which many robots or vehicles are moving through an environment, perhaps a factory or warehouse. The operator of the space needs to know (for reasons of safety, logistics, or quality control) where each one is at any given time, and relative to all the others in that space.

Each robot or vehicle in this site would have a Sixdof sensor unit installed, facing upward. The algorithms that power the sensor board are “lightweight” and can run on the vehicle’s existing computer or a small additional computer that could be as basic and inexpensive as a Raspberry Pi.

Next, the ceilings of the factory are outfitted with Sixdof coded infrared beacons. The beacons are mapped – linking the digital location to the physical location. This map is shared by all the sensors installed on all the moving vehicles. The result: as the vehicle moves through the factory floor, it receives instant, raw positional data (up to 1000 times per second) and sends it to the Sixdof algorithms which process it and transmit the actual 6dof positional coordinates.

As each beacon has a unique code (a specific “blink” pattern), the algorithm not only knows the relative change in position but can match the beacon that is being looked at by the sensor against the beacon map. The representation of the actual position in the factory is called “localization.”

The Sixdof technology does not rely on cameras, wireless, or radio communications. The technology requires only line-of-sight between the sensor unit and the IR beacons to report accurate, rapid tracking information.

Now, let’s look at another robotic situation: Multiple robot arms working in concert, “looking” at each other to stay coordinated. The application needs to know where each arm is, relative to the other arms. In this use case, both the beacons and the sensors are moving. The Sixdof algorithm will provide the relative position of each robot arm to the other robot arms.

How does the data from all these sensors get back to the host system for real-time processing? This can be managed on whatever communications system exists at the site. The most popular is wi-fi, but we have even successfully demonstrated the system communication over a 5G network.

Here are some videos that demonstrate the technology:

1. Tracking vehicles with the Sixdof Space technology with a 5G network facilitating the communications:

2. Demonstration of an iRobot navigating with its built-in system compared to navigation with the Sixdof Space tracking system:

3. Tracking a shopping cart being pushed through a store, using the Sixdof Space tracking system:

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