Point clouds using the robot arm

Several months ago I posted the final video (Part 8) in the series looking at the build of a Desktop robot head and arm.  I say final video as, for the time being, I have shelved this project and have moved on to something else. I learnt a lot from this project and I will likely revisit it at some point in the future.

The video above takes you through the process of using the robot arm, along with the model described in the previous post, to build a point cloud representation of the robots surroundings. I added feedback to the final servo in the robot arm assembly, the sonar tilt servo, and I was then able to calculate the position and orientation of the sonar mounted on the end of the robot arm. Using the sonar reading, I could then apply the same technique used to calculate the robot joint positions to find the x,y and z coordinates of the object that the sonar was detecting. This position could then be stored as a point. I programmed the robot arm to move to a series of positions and record a measurement from the sonar sensor as a point which was added to a large array. This array could then be plotted as a 3D plot in the matplotlib window in the GUI.  I pushed this as far as I could and ended up with a point cloud of several thousand points. At this point my PC was struggling to display the points and allow the plot to be rotated or zoomed smoothly. The gathering of the data for the largest point cloud I created took somewhere in the region of 30-40 minutes.

The point cloud experiment was interesting as it showed that the position of objects could be estimated and stored as positions in an array. One of the reasons that I moved on from this project was that I wanted to revisit previous work of combining a distance sensor with a camera. I would like to be able to capture an image, extract one or more objects of interest from the image and measure a distance to the object. This information can them be stored in some form. Similar to the way the point cloud represents distance points, I would like to build up a cloud of objects and their positions that the robot can later use to reference what it is currently seeing.

I will be back very soon with another post as I have made good progress with the next project that I will be sharing here.

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