September 2023

Young Scholar TechTalk – GRAINS: Proximity Sensing of Objects in Granular Materials

October 17, 2023 (Tuesday) 4:30-5:30pm
Proximity sensing is a method of detecting the presence of objects without making physical contact. However, this concept has not been widely explored in the context of granular materials, which are materials composed of small particles like sand or gravel. This is because granular materials have complex properties and the sensing needs to work without the aid of vision. In this presentation, I will introduce a system called GRAINS (Granular Material-Embedded Autonomous Proximity Sensing). GRAINS is designed to sense objects buried within granular materials by utilizing fundamental principles related to the behavior of granules, such as how they flow like a fluid, how they can become jammed. GRAINS uses force signals to determine the proximity of buried objects. It achieves this by analyzing force anomalies that occur when granules become jammed due to their proximity to objects. These force anomalies are learned in real-time by the system using a mathematical technique called Gaussian process regression. To capture these patterns, a probe is moved along a spiral trajectory within the granular material. The results of our experiments demonstrate that GRAINS can adaptively adjust its parameters to effectively work with different types of granules. It can perceive objects in the nearby vicinity, approximately 0.5 to 7 cm ahead, without the need for direct contact with the buried obstacles.
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