While QS has been working with ground vehicles since the beginning, the first true company robotics project started in 2005 for the US Army. In reviewing the completely manual teleoperation and user interfaces of common explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) robots at the time, QS applied expertise in algorithm development, vision-systems, user interface, and software development, and designed and implemented PointCom – short for “point-and-go” command. PointCom leveraged in-house developed monocular vision algorithms (real-time visual odometry, obstacle detection and avoidance, and path planning) and a touch-screen user interface, far more advanced than the suitcase-of-joysticks-and-switches approach common to OCUs of the time. PointCom was a simple to use, semi-autonomous control scheme in which soldiers could simply draw or tap where they wanted the robot to go and it would automatically guide itself there with no GPS dependence, detecting and avoiding obstacles based on monocular vision. It was successfully demonstrated to Army staff on a mobile device, teleoperating from Kansas to Ann Arbor over an IP connection, in 2006. Now imitated by competitors, but never well-duplicated, PointCom showed the kind of advancement QS could bring to military robotics.
PointCom led to bigger things – literally. QS’ DRIVER system built upon PointCom’s success and created an augmented teleoperation system for larger class unmanned vehicles. Combining a novel head mounted display/omnidirectional camera combination, steering wheel and pedal controls, intelligent bandwidth management techniques, semi-autonomous controls, and lidar and camera-based perception systems, DRIVER showed how a larger teleoperated platform could be controlled in a highly intuitive and efficient manner. PointCom and DRIVER technology eventually were transitioned though multiple programs, including being used to enhance the Harris RedHawk robotic control system. RedHawk’s excellent haptic control scheme was a natural fit with point-and-go technology, and the software and algorithm advances helped Harris deliver a more advanced, intuitive, efficient system to customers in the US DoD and UK MoD. Sensing, perception, control, interface – QS has the technology, and is innovating each and every day to increase your vehicles’ intelligence!