Jared Alan Frank of NYU uses augmented reality (AR) as a robot control interface; it runs on a conventional smartphone or tablet.
(Augmented reality control of robots)
Using Xcode, Apple’s software development platform, Frank built an app that can detect robots and objects in the environment and create a virtual grid—along with a coordinate system—to keep track of those objects on the screen. The user can then manipulate the objects on the device and watch as the robots carry out the desired actions in the real world. Commands from the app are sent via Wi-Fi to the robots, which in the current version use Raspberry Pi as the main controller.
To help his app make sense of the environment, Frank places visual tags on the robots and on the objects he wants the robots to move. The smartphone or tablet captures the scene using its camera, and the app detects the tags, using that information to keep track of marked objects. These tags, also called fiducial markers, are commonly used in AR apps to integrate physical landmarks and objects into a virtual world.
Ease of operation is one of the key features of this technology, but another advantage that Frank emphasizes is its mobility. He explains that if you’re able to control a swarm of robots using a simple mobile device, it becomes much easier to bring robotic applications outside the confines of the lab environment.
Fans of the still amazingly prescient 2009 novel Daemon recall that writer Daniel Suarez conjured a vision of a level 40 darknet sorcerer, threatened with capture, who uses an augmented reality environment to release a controllable drone army:
Gragg concentrated on the plane of D-Space. The entire floor plan was replicated there, spread out around him a life-sized wire-frame model overlaid on the GPS grid...
Gragg looked far beyond the concrete walls of Building Twenty-Nine, to distant, glowing call-outs in D-Space. He selected dozens of virtual objects he'd stored there, then launchd his prearranged summoning sequence, making somatic gestures and speaking the unlock code to the VOIP module...
"This is your last warning: surrender..."
Loki shook his head. "You're not thinking in enough dimensions, Doctor. Only part of me is in this building..."
Ross examined the screens. "Computer-controlled vehicles. Dozens of them. The Factions call them AutoM8s."
(Read more about Daniel Suarez' controllable drone army)