Humans are very good at navigating in nearly any environment. Using our eyes and the vestibular system, the orientation sensor in our inner ears, we can quickly create a mental map of our current location. Today's robots, however, are not very good at navigating new spaces without information from an external source, such as a human operator or GPS – which does not function indoors and is accurate only to a few meters.
At Wyss Zurich, engineers and scientists are developing an add-on device for robots, Zurich Eye, which imitates the human eyes and inner ear. Zurich Eye will enable machines to navigate independently in any space. This device contains cameras and an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which provides orientation. As it moves, it creates a digital map that enables robots to perform specific tasks in that space. Zurich Eye will be modular and durable, allowing it to be integrated easily into other systems. The precise maps created by Zurich Eye can also be transmitted to other devices and used to guide machines or people.
With its affordable components, Zurich Eye technology could be used in a wide range of fields. In particular, it enables machines to perform difficult tasks in places that are unsafe or inaccessible to humans. For instance, it could be used to automate manufacturing processes. Another potential field of application is civil engineering, where the device could be used to generate a precise set of 3D plans very rapidly. Zurich Eye could also be used in the automotive industry, in the fast-growing areas of driver assistance and autonomous vehicles.
The Wyss Zurich project Zurich Eye and its team were acquired by Facebook/Meta in November 2016. The team has become part of Meta's virtual reality subsidiary Reality Labs/Oculus.