Sensors and Sensing

Posted on Feb 5, 2014

You `see` colors, geometry, distance, spatial continuity and discontinuity, motion, connectedness and adjacency. These notions are built into the ways in which you experience and think about the world. You interpret the information returned to your senses through a rich model of the world. The robots you build will not have such a model unless you

Sensors and Sensing
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supply it. Moreover the simple touch, light and rotation sensors that your robots will use to sense the world are very different from your tactile, visual and proprioceptive sensors and, hence, your intuitions and models may not be appropriate to apply to interpreting Lego sensors. The sensors designed for the Lego Mindstorms RIS are fairly well behaved as sensors go. The Lego engineers did a good job of trading accuracy for simplicity and reliability of use. Of course, some would say that sensing problems are rarely due to the sensors themselves; they arise primarily due to problems in interpreting the data returned by sensors. Others might quip that a good sensor should be designed to return unambiguous data, but that misses the point. Sensing is all about measuring physical quantities often termed signals (e. g. , reflected acoustic energy in the case of sonar) and interpreting these measurements in order to draw conclusions about other physical quantities (e. g. , the distance to nearby physical objects that might constitute obstacles to a mobile robot). Any signal that obscures the signal you want to observe is referred to as noise. Ambiguity refers to there being more than one interpretation of a given signal. Ambiguity and noise are just part of the sensing game. Consider the Lego touch sensor; this device consists of nothing more than a contact switch held open with a spring and wired in series with a load...

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