December 19, 2018

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Enabling Faster, More Capable Robots With Real-Time Motion Planning


Hardware-based motion planning that operates in under a millisecond makes robots both safer and more versatile

A robot that’s equipped with real-time motion planning operates safely in an environment with humans, and can deploy in relatively unstructured factories, adjusting to imprecise object locations and orientations.

The use of robots remains painfully limited, largely due to insufficient motion-planning performance, even despite decades of expectations concerning their abilities in the house and elsewhere. Motion planning is all about the process of determining how to move a robot, or autonomous vehicle, from its current configuration to a desired goal configuration: For example, how to reach into a fridge to grab a drink all the while avoiding obstacles, such as other items inside the fridge. Up until recently, this crucial process has been implemented in software running on high-performance commodity hardware. The problems came about when this software takes multiple seconds, precluding the deployment of robots in dynamic environments or environments with humans. At Realtime Robotics, they have developed special-purpose hardware to solve motion planning in under a millisecond, greatly expanding the range of tasks that robots will soon be able to complete.

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[Originally posted by IEEE Spectrum— December 18, 2018]