More and more robots are being used to automatically clean floors and other surfaces in places like airports and hospitals. You have to wonder, though… how do they know when the floor is clean enough? A new module may soon let them know.
Currently being developed at Singapore University of Technology and Design, the device consists of a roll of white tape, a stepper motor that pulls out those short pieces of tape, a spring-powered “plunger” press down on the pull rod. and a USB camera to visually inspect the tape.
A robot using the device begins by taking a picture of the length of the tape in its clean, unused state. That same tape is then pressed to the floor (sticky side down), which is then examined again through the camera. By counting the number of pixels that dirt particles are now visible (but were not previously), the robot can assign a “dirty score” to that area of the floor.
The bot can then clean and re-evaluate the area over and over again, until its score is satisfactory – the scale ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 being the dirtiest and 100 being the cleanest.
Over there to be However, some limitations still need to be addressed. First, rough-textured floors tend to trap dirt particles, which helps keep them from sticking to duct tape. The system can also falsely detect dirt when switching between floors of different textures.
On the way, it is hoped that the module will additionally be able to assess microbial density, so the robot will know if floors need to be disinfected. Scientists are also developing algorithms that allow cleaning robots to visually identify which areas of the floor are most likely to get dirty, so they can get the most attention.
A paper on the research, led by graduate student Thejus Pathmakumar, was recently published in the journal Sensor.
Source: Singapore University of Technology and Design via EurekAlert