Geoff Manaugh’s latest looks at ScanLAB’s project to explore the bits of cityscape that LiDAR technology is making visible to robotic cars. Things humans overlook suddenly become visible (and dangerous):
Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the book “Robot Futures,” uses the metaphor of the perfect storm to describe an event so strange that no amount of programming or image-recognition technology can be expected to understand it. Imagine someone wearing a T-shirt with a stop sign printed on it, he told me. “If they’re outside walking, and the sun is at just the right glare level, and there’s a mirrored truck stopped next to you, and the sun bounces off that truck and hits the guy so that you can’t see his face anymore — well, now your car just sees a stop sign. The chances of all that happening are diminishingly small — it’s very, very unlikely — but the problem is we will have millions of these cars. The very unlikely will happen all the time.”
All of the glares, reflections and misunderstood signs that Nourbakhsh warned about are exactly what ScanLAB now seeks to capture. Their goal, Shaw said, is to explore “the peripheral vision of driverless vehicles,” or what he calls “the sideline stuff,” the overlooked edges of the city that autonomous cars and their unblinking scanners will “perpetually, accidentally see.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this technology changes the physical built environment to make it more “robot-friendly”.