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3D surface reconstruction of the Maerz Residence Family Room

Ye Duan, associate professor of computer science in the MU College of Engineering has developed software for a robot with a laser sensor that can enter dangerous structures to assess the structure’s stability and locate people within.

“We are developing computer graphics visualization software to allow the user to interactively navigate the 3D data captured from the robot’s scans,” said Ye Duan. “I worked with my students to develop computer software that helps the user to analyze the data and conduct virtual navigation, so they can have an idea of the structure before they enter it. The technology could save the lives of disaster victims and responders.”

The remote-controlled robot, built by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is designed to remotely transport a Light Detection and Ranging unit (LIDAR) so that responders, such as police, military, firefighters, and search and rescue teams, can know more about dangerous structures before entering. The robot takes multiple scans and the software forms the data points into sophisticated 3D maps that can show individual objects, create floorplans and color-code areas inside the structure for stability.

“Although the software and the robot can help in emergency situations, it could be commercialized for a variety of uses,” Duan said. “This system could be used for routine structure inspections, and also could allow the military to perform unmanned terrain acquisition to reduce wartime casualties.”

The researchers now are working on a proposal to make the robot faster and smaller than the current model, which resembles the NASA rovers sent to Mars, which weigh about 200 lbs.

Duan’s research has been published in International Journal of CAD/ CAM. The robot recently was named on the list of Kiplinger’s “8 Robots That Will Change Your Life.”