Perhaps more so than any other technology company that we focus on, Samsung seems to have a real fascination with robots. Indeed, we have noticed robotic technologies in recent Samsung patent filings just about every time we’ve covered the company as part of our Companies We Follow series. If you go back and look through our coverage Samsung in our archives, virtually every article will mention a robotics innovation or two.
It is no great surprise that once again robots are seen as a recurring theme in the Samsung portfolio. We notice a variety of robots in the patent applications recently published, as well as the patents recently issued to Samsung. In fact, we were intrigued by the number and scope of robotics related innovations the company continues to pursue.
With this in mind we decided to split up our most review of Samsung into several of articles, with this article focused on Samsung’s innovative pursuit of robot technology.
Growing Robotics Portfolio
Whenever we examine the latest innovations coming from the R&D facilities of Samsung, we always tend to notice at least a few technologies in the field of robotics. This South Korean conglomerate is heavily involved in a wide degree of robotics development. For example, Samsung has developed a robotic military sentry, the SGR-1, which can identify targets at two miles, includes machine gun and grenade launcher elements and is currently in use in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea; the weapons elements can only be initiated by a human operator. Samsung’s robotic technologies are also being developed for use within the home, such as the company’s recently announced Powerbot VR9000 robotic vacuum cleaner, which claims suction power which is 60-times greater than conventional vacuum cleaners.
A trio of patents issued to Samsung in recent weeks by the USPTO protect improvements to robotics technologies being pursued by the company. The company has protected a pretty general robotics technology for recovering from an error through U.S. Patent No. 8892250, which is titled Robot and Recovery Method Thereof. The patent claims a robot with a recovery unit for recovering from a failure which replaces a failed module in case of a recoverable error or stores data in progress when it’s determined that the robot cannot recover from the error. The technology is intended to provide a management system for robots that work independently or assist humans in operations.
Issues in operating robotic joints with the use of motors are addressed by the invention protected through U.S. Patent No. 8886360, issued under the title Motor Velocity Control and Apparatus. The innovative system provides a method to calculate the velocity profile of a motor at a joint to increase that motor’s efficiency. The patent protects a method involving the calculation of a velocity profile comprised of velocity sections including acceleration, acceleration compensation, constant velocity and deceleration compensation sections.
We were also piqued to learn of a Samsung technology for robots operating in dangerous and harsh conditions, disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8887842, which is titled Arm-Wheel Type Vehicle. Issued to subsidiary Samsung Techwin Co. of Changwon, South Korea, it claims an arm-wheel type vehicle with an arm rotatably installed on a main body and buffer devices disposed on both the arm and the body which are both utilized to mitigate impacts on the arm. This robot, which can walk over or scale rugged obstacles, could be developed for disaster prevention, space exploration or military purposes.
Continuing Robot Innovation at Samsung
Robotics technologies remain a large research and development focus across many sectors of the corporation. Robot vacuums and other home technologies being developed by Samsung will be integrated onto a single network using the SmartThings system which the company acquired in August. An underwater cleaning robot for removing organic material from the hulls of ships while being built has also recently been created by Samsung and the technology is expected to save a fair amount of time during shipbuilding projects.
The use of robots in incredibly harsh environments to perform jobs that humans cannot safely accomplish is featured in a couple of patent applications that caught our eyes today. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140343730, filed under the title Robot Control Methods, claims a method of controlling a robot using a flexible module with a multitude of nodes operating in either a pan or tilt motion; the method also involves calculating the operating angle distribution rates and the state vectors of the nodes. By providing a robotics control method that involves flexible modules with variable degrees of freedom, the inventors believe that this invention can improve the use of robotics in rescue missions, medical procedures and military activities.
Another robotics innovation for medical procedures, specifically minimally invasive surgeries, is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140336669, which is titled Haptic Gloves and Surgical Robot Systems. This innovative system is designed to aid surgeons using the robotic glove system by providing vibration feedback in response to grip pressure and other forces measured by the system. The patent application would protect a haptic glove with a plurality of vibrators configured to apply vibrations, at least one pressure sensor for measuring grip force in the fingers and at least one sensation applier for applying vibrations or force to the fingers.
The robot innovations being developed by Samsung are also more generally indicative of an interest in what might be characterized as situational awareness, and a number of Samsung innovations are directed to inventions that enable robots to survey conditions and respond accordingly. For example, a floor cleaning robot designed to clean dust and other unwanted material from floors is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140336863, entitled Cleaning Robot and Control Method Thereof. The patent application claims a cleaning robot with a moving unit to move the body in a cleaning space, a floor image obtaining unit and a control unit which detects foreign substances on the floor based on floor images. This innovative system is intended to improve upon conventional cleaning robots by providing a mechanism for them to recognize that new dust or dirt accumulation has occurred in a section of floor that has already been cleaned.
Another example of situational awareness can be seen in a system supporting the mobility of robots across and entire neighborhoods, which appears to be the intention of the technology disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140334713, entitled Method and Apparatus for Constructing Map for Mobile Robot. The patent application discloses a technology that relates to a method of constructing a map by searching for feature data of an arbitrary space by scanning the robot’s surrounding area and then performing a neighborhood moving algorithm. This system could be used to construct maps for mobile robots wherein the maps are constructed of cells which measure 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer.