LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology was used in Apollo 15 lunar mission back then. The technology has been around since 1960s and back then, it was filled with enormous scanners which occupied planes. On top of that, it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, as time goes by, the technology has shrunk in size and cost, making it easier to be fitted into smart devices. Currently it is used for surveying, mapping for geological research and archaeology.
How does LiDAR works? The technology is using a scanner to shoot out infrared lasers which will reflect or bounce off solid matter on surface. The distance measured will then be used to create 3D image which then be interpreted by a computer system and based on these information, it will help the device to make a certain decision according to the pre-coded instructions.
LiDAR technology has evolved. Nowadays, the technology is able to be used for the police’s speed guns to measure vehicles that exceed speed limit. Another usage of the technology is the Cheetah running robot, which is a four legged, 70-pound robot, developed at MIT and funded by Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). The robot can run approximately 13mph on a flat course. It was then enhanced to be able to jump over hurdles as it was programmed to be able to calculate the size, time and distance. Therefore, using this information, it is able to jump smoothly at the right time without human help at all. It is reported that the robot is able to jump about 18 inches high, more than half of its height while running 5mph.
Harvest Automation HV-100 (Harvey) is another example of LiDAR usage. Harvey is programmed to be able to identify its location and determine where to place the plants which are about thousands of them in numbers and avoid any obstacles along the way. In this way, farmers will be able to optimize space while minimize labour costs and prevent worker injury due to repetitive tasks.
LiDAR is also used in the upcoming self driving vehicles as part of the navigational system.
Unfortunately, there is a way to fool a LiDAR. To do this, the person needs to be within 300 meters distance from the device which is using the technology using a specially modified laser pointer. The impact from this action is seen in the automobile industry whereby a hacker is able to make a self-driving car stop or swerve by convincing the sensor that there is some objects in front of them where actually there is no object there. However, there are ways to counteract this hacking by identifying and removing outliers from the raw LiDAR data.
Deloitte estimates that the market for sales of robots for logistics, packaging and materials handling is going to double by 2020. Apparently all these industries are using LiDAR and this year, it is estimated at $18 billion.