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Optical guidance of robots: method and system

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The invention proposes to guide a robot by projecting a laser light, image processing and communication to improve the accuracy of guidance. The method spans areas of robotics, computer vision, user interface, video games, communication and smart home technologies.

The key idea is to show goal positions to the robot optically instead of communicating them numerically. This intuitive interface simplifies directing the robot while visual feedback improves the positioning accuracy and allows for implicit localization. The guidance system serves also as a mediator for cooperative multiple robots, as shown in Figure below.

You are welcome to read about this invention in my article "Optical guidance method for robots capable of vision and communication" published in Robotics and Autonomous Systems Journal: Link (reprint in PDF). A proof-of-concept experiment of directing a mobile robot by a laser pointer is shown on video at: Link (movie).

Please view the invention summary that outlines its key idea, advantages, market statistics, competitors and forecast: Link (leaflet in PDF).

This U.S. patent may be of interest to Samsung Electronics, iRobot, Neato Robotics, LG Electronics, Moneual, Miele, Dyson, and Google, as explained below.

Financial information

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. may have been using this technology in POWERbot VR9000 robotic vacuum cleaners equipped with Point Cleaning™ function since 2014: Link (movie). Claims 1-5, 9-11, 15-17, 33 and 34 of U.S. Patent 6,629,028 may be present in this product.

According to Link , POWERbot VR9000 with Point Cleaning™ can be purchased online in the USA ($999 in May 2015). POWERbot robotic vacuums by Samsung have also been sold online on in the USA since 2014.

Samsung registered a trademark Point Cleaning with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on March 5, 2015: serial No. 86555014.

The previous patent applications by Samsung on robot guidance by laser pointer (Appl. No. 10/820,037, Pub. No. 2005/0027399 in the USA and Appl. No. 04250986.9, Pub. No. EP1515210 in Europe) did not result in patents because of the priority of my U.S. Patent 6,629,028 covering the subject.

Samsung was granted a U.S. Patent 9,675,229 on June 13, 2017 on optical guidance of a robot cleaner by modulated light, with a reference to my U.S. Patent 6,629,028. The similar patent application by Samsung in Europe (Appl. No. 15174995.9, Pub. No. EP2963515) has been under examination (European Search Report issued on December 18, 2015).

The robotic vacuum cleaners represent 18.1% of the global vacuum market with such competitors as: iRobot, LG Electronics, Neato Robotics, Dyson, Moneual, Miele and Samsung, see Link . In 2013, iRobot shipped 1.933 million units worldwide, reported 427.9 million revenue from Home Robots and 210.8 million gross margin in this segment.

There are 125.8 million households in the USA in 2016. iRobot’s share of U.S. robotic vacuum market is estimated at 75% (by Adam Fleck at Morningstar), generating up to 34.3% of $487.4 million total revenue in 2013. iRobot reports a full-year domestic Home Robots revenue growth of more than 20% in 2014.

Vacuum cleaner robots are forecast to grow rapidly from $981 million in 2013 to $2.6 billion by 2020 because of automated process and effective cleaning power (by Link .

U.S. residential robotic vacuum market will grow at CAGR of 6.43% and 4.45% in terms of revenue and unit shipment, respectively, over the period 2014-2019 (by TechNavio): Link .

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