The autonomous robotics revolution might seem futuristic to people outside our deep-tech industry. The reality is, Accerion has spent the past seven years perfecting its indoor positioning systems, the technology that makes truly autonomous robots perform at the highest possible levels.
The result is devices that are incredibly accurate and easy to integrate with robots and other equipment because they don’t require infrastructure … GPS, radio beacons, tracks, magnetic grids or induction lines.
Willem-Jan Lamers founded Accerion in 2015, creating its MVP, the Juno, followed by the Jupiter model. Now there are several Accerion positioning technology modes that integrate with other technologies, including line-following navigation, which allows a mobile robot to trace its movements with total accuracy over and over again.
Deep tech, precise performance
So, how does our virtual line-following technology work? We can’t disclose the secret sauce, but we can say with confidence that Accerion technology checks all the boxes – advanced optical sensors and algorithms, embedded software and integrated design.
We are happy to help you understand how our optics-based systems produce the precision – down to sub-mm levels – our clients demand for their mobile robots and the applications at the end-customer.
Engineer Talha Ali Arslan is Accerion Employee No. 1, a guy who’s been fascinated with high tech since he was a kid in Istanbul: “I was always breaking things apart to understand how they worked.” Talha was recruited by Accerion just after he graduated from grad school, so there’s no one better to explain this proprietary technology no one else has.
In its Jupiter system, Accerion uses two optical sensor modules – similar in principle to an optical computer mouse – in tandem with an on-board computer. “When we designed the Jupiter prototype, we combined the two optical units into one module, so everything is in a single box,” Talha said, including the power source, computation unit and ethernet connecting to other robots on a LAN.
Jupiter positions robots and other devices by scanning and “mapping” the floor of a warehouse, factory or really an environment, “scratches, paint and all,” Talha says.
“When we are mapping the floor, we’re creating our own references. We call them virtual markers. When the Accerion sensor maps the floor, we create dense virtual markers out of the natural surface.”
One of the most significant Accerion innovations is figuring how to eliminate “drift,”or the robot veering off the precise path. “Think of it this way,” Talha says, “Count a hundred steps forward, then turn around 180-degrees and walk back 100 steps back. Would you end up in the same location?”
“No, because your steps aren’t always the same. The same thing applies to a sensor.”
Accerion sensors measure movement and position more than 100 times per second, Talha said: “For absolute location, we have to make sure we detect drift and correct it.” Robots then use that data to follow assigned routes, with Accerion’s optical modules navigating the floor via a process called optical odometry.
Faster, more accurate and more versatile
In Accerion’s engineering lab, Talha demonstrates with a Jupiter device attached to a small mobile platform. He quickly teaches it a course, then watches as it retraces the course over and over again, never touching pylons placed as closely as possible to the track, which demonstrates the ability to repeat the robot’s movements with high precision.
“That’s the solution to the absolute localization of the robot,” Talha says.
Accerion technology is evolving quickly and that includes increasing exponentially the maximum speeds robots can travel.
The sensors can also collect and distribute data to robots to keep them away from obstacles and moving toward waypoints even if there are degradations in the surface of the workspace.
The goal for the future is tech that will allow each autonomous vehicle or robot to update those virtual markers automatically, then share updates with multiple robots.
All of this increases what is already versatile positioning technology, with unlimited applications from factories and fulfillment centers to luggage-carrying robots in airports and even robotic rides in theme parks.
Accerion is tailoring capabilities to the market, says Vincent Burg, managing director and partner. “We use line-following in certain areas but with different degrees of detail as needed.
“We have something unique. We work with lots of other technologies, and it all comes together for the most efficient and straight-forward integration.”