Case 14014

Robotic Exploration of Surfaces Using Tactile Data


Robotic exploration, geometry identification, robotic mapping


    The invention provides a method to tactilely explore a surface in a short time using a robot provided with only position sensors.


    Robotic exploration of harsh environments require the use of tactile sensing, which is very time-consuming.


The invention has two main parts: 1) a robot in which the procedure can be used to identify and relatively fast map the shape (internal or external to the robot) and location of geometries (surfaces, profiles, volumes, etc.); and 2) an algorithm. The algorithm includes two main sections: surface reconstruction, that uses the contact points between surface and robot to provide a temporary surface model and exploration strategy, which determines the robot movements to acquire information on the surface in a short time given the current information.

  • First method to explore a surface using a robot provided with only position sensors
  • Allows exploration of very harsh environments, including oil wells, pipes, mines nuclear facilities, where range and tactile sensors cannot be used
  • Seeks to reduce robot’s total travel distance when exploring the surface

  • Professor Steven Dubowsky (Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT)
  • Francesco Mazzini (Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT)
  • Dan Kettler (Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT)
  • Julio Guerrero (Schlumberger Doll Research Center – Schlumberger Ltd.)

Intellectual Property:

U.S. Patent Application Number 12/534063, filed on July 31, 2009


Mazzini,F., Kettler,D., Guerrero,J., Dubowsky, S., (2011) “Tactile Robotic Mapping of Unknowning Surfaces, with Application to Oil Wells”, IEEE Transaction on Instrumentation and Measurement, vol. 60, pp. 420-429.

Mazzini,F. and Dubowsky,F. (2010) “An Experimental Validation of Robotic Tactile Mapping in Harsh Environment such as Deep Sea Oil Well Sites”, 12th International Symposium of Experimental Robotics, New Delhi, 2010

Mazzini, F., Kettler, D., Guerrero, J., Dubowsky, S., (2009) “Tactile Robotic Mapping of Unknown Surfaces, with Application to Oil Wells”, Robotic and Sensors Environments, ROSE 2009. IEEE International Workshop on 2009. 80-85

Last revised:April 4th, 2013

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