When my son was younger, he’d ask me to tell him stories on car trips. As my wife can attest, I only have three stories, so I started retelling Greek myths. I discovered that I only reliably remembered about three of those, too. But one that stuck was the story of Argos and the peacock.
The short version of the story is that Hera hired Argos to guard a cow that Zeus was in love with (I know, I know). She chose Argos because he had 100 eyes and could sleep while keeping some of his eyes open. Zeus sent Hermes to sing Argos to sleep, kill him, and take the cow. Hera rewarded Argos for his good college try by putting his eyes on peacocks.
I soon learned that Greek myths present more questions than they answer.
However, Argos has a valuable lesson for some of us – if someone with 100 eyes can fall asleep while guarding something, what chance do we have?
…Vigilant security robots, of course. Not scary Skynet robots, but vehicles with cameras…
We’ve all seen security guards in movies. Even if they’re on the ball, caffeinated, and paying attention to their monitors, the bad guys can link the security camera feeds to video loops that show all is clear and then steal the goods. The watchful security guard is duped by sharp wits and technology.
So where am I going with this (Which is what my kid often asked, actually.)? Vigilant security robots, of course. Not scary Skynet robots, but vehicles with cameras, like Sharp’s INTELLOS A-UGVs (Automated Unmanned Ground Vehicles).
Well, we’ve had cameras for a long time. What’s so special about putting one on wheels? Why not just put cameras all around a growhouse or whatever you want to surveil? Because an A-UGV can act as another set of eyes moving around a space. It’s like having a roaming security guard in constant contact with headquarters.
INTELLOS will follow a predetermined path around your facility, and it can be equipped with a variety of sensors and tech, including lidar, thermal imaging, chemical sensors, and more. Battery life depends on variables such as speed, terrain, and features used, but it’s generally several hours. They’ve also got two-way communication capabilities, extending the reach of security personnel even further without putting people in harm’s way.
A mobile set of eyes and ears sounds great, but how close are we to Robocop? Rich Olson, hardware/electronics prototyping generalist, says not very. “To be truly useful, a drone will need to understand changes in its environment, and specifically what those changes mean. This will require an approach known as ‘sensor fusion,’ utilizing multiple data points (GPS, infrared, video, vibration, etc.) to figure out what’s really going on. Is that heat source near the fence new? Is it a human or a raccoon? Is it supposed to be there?” We’re not quite there yet.
While they’re not the T-1000, A-UGVs still offer a pretty cool way to keep an eye on a large area. And for now, they’re still under human control.