Panasonic's LiDAR sensor will stop embarrassing robot falls

"Sarah Connor is not at the bottom of this fountain."

Far from the killing machines many fear, most commercial robots are tipsy contraptions that can barely see in front of them. Panasonic wants to help them out with its new 3D LiDAR specifically designed for mobile robots rather than autonomous cars. It can scan as wide as 60 degrees vertically and 270 degrees horizontally, allowing for "detection of objects on the ground precisely as well as the roughness of the ground surface," Panasonic explains.

That differs from conventional 3D LiDAR used for self-driving cars, which "cannot precisely detect the conditions of the ground," Panasonic says. Because of its wide scanning range, it doesn't require additional sensors or cameras to see objects around it or on the ground, where even a pebble or crack can stub the tiny wheels on most bots. That makes it ideal for work on delivery robots, fork lifts, in factories or farms, or with security systems.

In busy areas, Panasonic's 3D LiDAR can quick scan in a wide range, then switch to a range and resolution best suited to the situation. It can also work in strong sunlight, thanks to newly developed noise reduction tech.

We're not sure if Panasonic's honchos were thinking specifically of the hapless bot that drowned in a DC fountain, but it couldn't have provided a better commercial for the LiDAR. "Autonomous robots need to detect the condition of the ground as well as the objects around them since they will be operated inside facilities with many moving objects including people," it says. Indeed, "Steve," the plunging Knightscope K5 security bot, managed to avoid people and objects before the whole "floor" thing eluded him.