Launched by University of Sydney alumnus, Mark Bishop in 2009, Ocular Robotics is one of Australia’s leading robotics companies revolutionising the capabilities and applications of robotic sensors and 3D mapping.
Ocular Robotics designs, manufactures and markets a dynamic sensor platform capable of 3D laser scanning and high-performance camera pointing, which is simultaneously fast and accurate. To date they are the only robotics company to create a directable sensor system with these features. Their RobotEye technology can improve the operational performance and efficiency for systems that rely on sensors. This includes robotics and automation, security and surveillance, aerospace and defence, mining and resources, and precision agriculture.
We might see Ocular Robotics’ technology used by an airport for surveillance. If a bag, for example, is left in the airport the RobotEye camera can follow both the dropped bag and the person who left it, because of the camera’s ability to move at lightning speed and track both objects as they move.
QinetiQ, a global defence and security business recently released their drone protection systems at the 2017 Paris Airshow; it’s a system which incorporates an Ocular Robotics thermal camera system designed to identify and track multiple drones that may pose a threat to airports, critical infrastructure and public buildings.
An interesting project which involved Ocular Robotics’ products was the scanning and digital mapping of the Priscilla Catacombs archeological site in Rome. Using an agile robot the team was able to explore all parts of the site, scan and interpret the vision and depth data to map out the site.
Ocular Robotics’ CEO, Mark Bishop saw the potential for his company while working on a research project with the University’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics. One issue in the project centred on robot perception and the need to develop new ways to allow robots to interact more intelligently with their environment. For example, an automated mining truck might not be able to identify the difference between a tuft of grass on the ground and a rock and would drive around the grass unnecessarily. Mark developed the technology to allow multiple sensors to point in the same direction at the same time, enabling robots to make smarter decisions by applying a level of reasoning across the data available from the sensors.
“Originally my aim was to create a robotic solution for delivering timely and precise information to robotic platforms about their environment; however it soon became obvious that many applications across many sectors would benefit from the simultaneous, rapid and precise directing of sensors enabled by the RobotEye technology platform,” said Mark.
Ocular Robotics’ technology differs to others in that they’ve removed most of the mass that normally needs to be moved to direct the view of the sensor. In other technologies changing the direction of view of a sensor would require you to move the sensor, one of the motors and their supporting structure, which are heavy and therefore reduces precision. Amazingly, the RobotEye is several times faster than the fastest saccadic movements of the human eye.
So what’s the future of Ocular Robotics in Mark’s eyes? “We will continue to innovate in the core RobotEye technology and the products we build around the technology, to bring unique capabilities to a range of sectors and applications.
“I see some strong parallels between Ocular and other Australian companies like Cochlear and ResMed, who have been able to continue to innovate around a core capability over a long period of time, remaining market leaders in their sectors while building significant businesses on a global scale. I hope that Ocular will be able to emulate the success of companies like this in its own markets.”
It’s an interesting time for engineers like Mark working in robotics, with technological developments charging forward and the demand for these innovations at a scale never seen before. In this new world of robotics and hyper-automation there’s an ever-growing demand for mechatronic engineering experts to lead the charge.