Introducing Mobot

Motivation: growing number of people interested in 3D for entertainment (e.g., traditional 3D games, Oculus), robotics (e.g., autonomous cars), etc.

Problem: hard to create quality 3D content (i.e., labor-intensive) whether for end-users to consume or for algorithms to process.

Existing approaches:

  1. Automatically and robustly capture objects (e.g., chairs, people). However, requires extensive setup with many cameras surrounding the object. Capturing data is hard, but using data is easy.
  2. Capture space with handheld device. However, in order to make convenient for people to scan, compromise a lot on robustness. Capturing data is easy, but using data is hard.

Our approach: What about automatically and robustly capturing spaces? In other words, can we sacrifice how easy it is to capture data in order to make using data easy? Once we have such a system, then we can work on making it easier to capture data as we get better at using the data. This approach might be easier than the other way around: capturing data easily, but very poorly, and hoping to use that data better over time.

Let's build a robot to scan spaces for us. The robot can be very slow, but it must be very methodical in how it captures data, so the resulting data is high quality. For a human, this process would be very tedious.

On quality: What does 'bad quality' data look like? See a rectangular room from bird's eye view:

Notice how the four walls are all over the place. Here is a 'better quality' version:

The walls are now where they should be. However, we still see many holes in the floor. Once we zoom in, we see that we don't have many data points. There is room for improvement.

Mobot: Mobot gets his name from Mo Farrah, one of the most consistently dominant runners of all time. However, no one knows who he is because he's not a sprinter like Usain Bolt; Mo takes his time over much longer distances. Nothing flashy, very methodical.

And just as Usain Bolt has his call sign:

so too does Mo:

The media has taken to calling Mo's sign 'The Mobot'. And so we have our own Mo(bile Ro)bot.

An ongoing photo album of Mobot under construction and in action.