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Robot Vision Systems are Making Robots Smarter

Robot Vision Systems are Making Robots Smarter

Max Herberger

May 14, 2024

Robot Vision Systems are Making Robots Smarter

The world of robotics is coming alive with robot sensing, powered by the arrival of sensors and advanced vision systems –also known as machine vision systems. These systems are changing how robots understand and interact with their environment, opening possibilities once considered science fiction. But how does robot vision work, and what changes is it bringing to various industries? Let's dive in and see.

What is Robot Vision?

At its core, robot vision allows robots to see and interpret the world around them. This is possible by integrating sensors, cameras, and other peripheries that use computer algorithms to process visual data from their surroundings. A vision system can translate captured images into a format that a computer can understand, allowing it to program the robot to react appropriately. This process relies on image capture, data analysis, and AI-driven decision-making to train the robot in actionable responses. Applying these algorithms allows robots to recognize objects, track their movement, and navigate through space —think of it as the robot equivalent of learning to read a room.

The Eyes of Automation

Robots are equipped with an array of visual tools that could be likened to a Swiss Army knife for viewing the world:

  • 2D and 3D Vision Sensors: From simple shape and pattern recognition on a single plane to capturing the three-dimensional details of objects, these sensors are vital for tasks requiring complex manipulations or precise quality control.

  • Standard and Infrared Cameras: Whether capturing images in standard lighting conditions or detecting heat signatures in low-light environments, these cameras expand the operational capacities of robots, especially in extreme situations like metal forging.

  • High-Speed Cameras: For operations where fractions of a second matter, these cameras keep up with rapid movements, allowing robots to perform precisely at high speeds.

  • Hyperspectral and Thermal Imaging: Going beyond the visible spectrum, these technologies detect fine variations in materials and temperatures, useful in industries from agriculture to maintenance, helping robots spot issues invisible to the naked eye.

Combining multiple types of data from various sensors and cameras, robots can better understand their surroundings, adapting to complex and variable environments with greater intelligence and flexibility.

Applying Machine Vision Across Industries

Robot vision is making waves across many industries by enhancing efficiency and safety.

  • Manufacturing: In factories, robots with vision systems can spot defects on assembly lines with increased accuracy, surpassing human capabilities. This not only improves the quality of products but also minimizes waste and boosts productivity. Vision systems are also used to detect and understand workpieces and then automatically generate robot paths, making human-robot interaction more straightforward.

  • Healthcare: Surgeons are now using robots that can precisely perform delicate procedures, guided by images that help them navigate and manipulate instruments with unmatched steadiness.

  • Autonomous Vehicles: Self-driving cars use an intricate mix of sensors and cameras to understand road conditions, spot obstacles, and navigate safely.

Wandelbots’ Vision Integration in Action

At Wandelbots, we see the value of vision systems. Our current collaboration with 3M to transform traditional robot sanding operations utilizes a 3D camera for scanning the workpiece. These cameras do more than just scan the workpiece; they create a detailed 3D point cloud, enhancing perception and enabling fully automatic path planning. Every surface and contour of the material is meticulously mapped, allowing the robot to execute its sanding tasks with precision. This is especially useful in a high-mix, low-volume factory environment.

Central to the exceptional performance of our solutions is the use of point cloud data along with safety zones programmed into the robot controller. These safety zones allow robots to automatically avoid collisions by using our solution to plan paths that circumvent potential collision points. We have developed a specialized type of point-to-point movement that plans paths while navigating around obstacles. This integration ensures that robots powered by Wandelbots operate with precision and possess a heightened awareness of their surroundings. These capabilities ensure safe and effective collaboration between robots, human workers, and their environment.

Challenges of Robot Vision

Despite their success, robot vision systems could be better and face many challenges. They must continuously adapt to different environments where lighting, weather, and unexpected obstacles can dramatically affect a robot’s visual perception. The integration of AI has solved some of these challenges in evaluating object texture in context conditions, such as lighting or deep contrasts. Additionally, as these systems often capture and process vast amounts of visual data, privacy and security issues are increasingly debated.


Robot vision systems are reshaping the landscape of industry and technology. With each breakthrough, robots are becoming more autonomous and integral to how industries operate. As we continue to innovate and improve these systems, the possibilities for what robots can achieve are virtually limitless. The era of robotic vision is just beginning, and its impact on our world is set to be monumental.

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