What Is Image Processing in Robotics?

Image processing in robotics is the use of images by robots to perform certain tasks. Robotics specialists can include imaging equipment and the necessary programming and software to handle visual input the robot may encounter. In the course of programming and teaching robots, they show their creations how to recognize images and act upon them. Some companies manufacture software suites for people to install directly on their equipment, while in other cases, people may program their own.

One of the simplest examples of image processing in robotics involves the use of a camera system for navigation. A robot can be taught to follow a line, series of dots, or other visual indicator like a laser. It uses a crude camera and image processing system to identify the target in the surrounding environment and track it. This allows robots to do things like following lines in a warehouse to collect and deliver products, which can be useful for factory automation.

More advanced image processing in robotics can allow a robot to navigate an environment without a specific guide. It can identify and avoid obstacles as well as locating an end target, such as a person waving at the robot or a specific shelf in a store. This requires more complex image processing algorithms, so the robot can learn to recognize objects in a three dimensional environment. Programmers can use a variety of tools in training to show robots the different things they may encounter.

Robots may also be taught to perform other tasks in response to images. Image processing in robotics may allow a robot to recognize faces, respond to facial expressions and gestures, and interact in a very natural way with humans. Robots can also distinguish between different people, animals, or objects, which can be useful for everything from programming robotic nurses to quality control on an assembly line, where a robot needs to learn to spot defective components. Robot training can involve exposure to thousands of instances to provide context and a wide sample to teach the robot about the world around it.

The more complex the image processing in robotics, the more energy and computing power it can eat up. Technicians have to balance this with other needs to make a robot run smoothly. Too many resources can require substantial power sources that reduce mobility by weighing a robot down or tethering it to an outlet. It is also possible for a robot to exceed processing power with programming demands, in which case it may operate erratically or sluggishly. Designers think about what they want a robot to do and assign priorities at the start of a design so they can produce a functional final product.