ThereminVision Sensor: Robot Proximity Detection

ThereminVision is a robotic sensing system that uses the same basic principle as the world's first electronic musical instrument, the Theremin. The Theremin is played by moving your hands through the air between two antennae; the capacitance of these very sensitive antennae is varied depending on where your hands are. Oscillators pick up the minute variations in capacitance caused by the hand movements.


(From RobotlandInc.com)

Here's how ThereminVision works:

ThereminVision is a modernized and simplified version of the theremin with all digital circuits. The system can very quickly scan the area around and detect capacitance changes on the antennas around a robot. Each of four antennas can be selected by a microcontrollor and the resulting relative antenna capacitance is returned to the processor in the form of a variable pulse width. As an object nears a given antenna, the increasing capacitance causes the pulse width of the signal to the processor to decrease and visa-versa.

Human beings effortlessly detect objects in their path, and the edges of those objects. Equipping a robot to do this is challenging. Many systems are built to rely on the same sense that humans rely on the most - vision. For example, the robot crab of William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer uses bursts of light to "see" objects in its path. The ThereminVision system uses an entirely different sense to help a robot "see" an object.

Read the ThereminVision-II Instruction Manual; see ThereminVision Sensor for links to forums and other discussions on this topic.

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