- Open Access
Visual sensor fusion for active security in robotic industrial environments
© Robla et al.; licensee Springer. 2014
- Received: 16 December 2013
- Accepted: 23 May 2014
- Published: 12 June 2014
This work presents a method of information fusion involving data captured by both a standard charge-coupled device (CCD) camera and a time-of-flight (ToF) camera to be used in the detection of the proximity between a manipulator robot and a human. Both cameras are assumed to be located above the work area of an industrial robot. The fusion of colour images and time-of-flight information makes it possible to know the 3D localization of objects with respect to a world coordinate system. At the same time, this allows to know their colour information. Considering that ToF information given by the range camera contains innacuracies including distance error, border error, and pixel saturation, some corrections over the ToF information are proposed and developed to improve the results. The proposed fusion method uses the calibration parameters of both cameras to reproject 3D ToF points, expressed in a common coordinate system for both cameras and a robot arm, in 2D colour images. In addition to this, using the 3D information, the motion detection in a robot industrial environment is achieved, and the fusion of information is applied to the foreground objects previously detected. This combination of information results in a matrix that links colour and 3D information, giving the possibility of characterising the object by its colour in addition to its 3D localisation. Further development of these methods will make it possible to identify objects and their position in the real world and to use this information to prevent possible collisions between the robot and such objects.
- Active security
- Industrial robot
- ToF and colour cameras
- Information fusion
Since the 1960s, industrial robots have been used in the manufacturing industry and they have substituted humans in various repetitive, dangerous, hostile tasks. A consequence associated with the incorporation of robots in industry is the emergence of new risks of accidents for workers. The normatives which incorporate, among many other aspects, these robot-related risks, include the international standard ISO 10218, the American ANSI/RIA R15.06, the European EN 775, and national normatives such as the Spanish UNE-EN 755. To prevent accidents, the selection of a security system must be based on the analysis of these risks. Traditionally, these security systems separate the robot workspace from the human one. One example of this requirement was reflected in the Spanish normative UNE-EN 755:1996 . It is established that sensor systems have to be incorporated to prevent the entrance of humans in a hazardous area in case the operating state of the robotic system implies dangers to the human. According to traditional normatives, maintenance, repair, or programming personnel can only be inside the robot workspace if the industrial robot is not in automatic mode.
However, in recent years, due in part to the flexible design of products, the optimization of production methods, and the introduction of new technologies, the tasks performed by industrial robots are no longer restricted to the transfer of objects, or other repetitive tasks. Instead, there is an increasing number of tasks in which humans and robots combine their skills in collaborative work.
To enable collaboration between human and robot, safety measures that establish a rigid separation between human and robot workspaces have to be removed. Instead, the introduction of other types of security systems is required so that collisions can be avoided by detecting obstacles as well as their dynamic characteristics, and harm to the human can be mitigated in case of an unexpected impact. For this reason, research in this field is directed towards changing the way a human interacts with a robot so that the trend is that both human and robot can share the same workspace at the same time. This change in the working relationship is reflected in the updates carried out from the year 2006 in the international normatives ISO10218  and guidelines for the implementation of these regulations, such as . In these guidelines, new concepts are presented, such as collaborative robots, collaborative operations, and spaces of collaborative work.
Taking into account that security is a fundamental aspect in the design of robotic manufacturing systems, the development of systems and security strategies that allow safe collaborative work between human and robot is essential. The aim of this paper is to contribute at the initial stage of the design of a system for collision prevention between a human and a robot manipulator sharing a workspace at the same time. A method for processing of information acquired from two different types of vision sensors located above an industrial robot environment is proposed. The method, which is mainly focused on information captured from a time-of-flight camera, allows the fusion of both colour and 3D information, as an initial step towards the development of an active security system for application in an industrial robotics environment. This information fusion generates a colour and 3D information matrix which allows simultaneously estimating colour characteristics from an object and its three-dimensional position in a world coordinate frame. At a later step, the use of this combination of information will allow to associate a security volume around each characterised object, in order to prevent possible collisions between industrial robot and human.
The presented method for fusion of acquired information from a ToF camera and a colour camera has a different standpoint from the ones proposed in the consulted papers. According to papers that are not related to active security in robotic industrial environments such as , the spatial transformation is performed establishing the ToF camera coordinate system as the reference coordinate system. Therefore, if an object position in a world coordinate system wanted to be known, another calibration should be done to establish the rotation matrix and translation vector that connected both coordinate systems. Nevertheless, in the present paper, this aspect has been considered. Therefore, it was needed to define a common coordinate system for an industrial robot, a colour camera, and a ToF camera, in order to know at the same time 3D object location at the robot arm workspace and its colour feature. According to papers focusing on mixed reality applications as paper , the used setup includes a CCD firewire camera, a ToF camera, and a fisheye camera. After performing the calibration and establishing relative transformations between the different cameras, a background model, whose use eliminates the need for chroma keying and also supports planning and alignment of virtual content, was generated allowing to segment the actor from the scene. Paper  presents a survey of ToF basic measurement principles of ToF cameras including, among other issues, camera calibration, range image preprocessing, and sensor fusion. Several studies which study different combinations of high-resolution cameras and lower-resolution ToF cameras are mentioned.
In relation to the paper focused on active security, the most closely related to our work is . Though a common world coordinate system for cameras and robot is also used, the method seem to present certain differences because a spatial transform function is identified in order to map the image coordinates of the 2D sensor to the corresponding coordinates of the PMD sensor. Moreover, saturated pixels errors do not seem to have been considered. Here, the presented work shows a different standpoint since the obtained parameters from the cameras calibration are used to transform 3D point cloud given in the ToF camera coordinate system to the world coordinate system, and finally, the obtained internal and external parameters are used to achieve the reprojection of corrected 3D points (distance error, saturated pixels, and jump edge effect) into colour images.
With the aim of allowing any researcher to implement the proposed method of fusion of information exactly like it that has been carried out at the present work, this paper gives a mathematical detailed description of the steps involved in the proposed method.
In what follows, it is assumed that a 3D ToF camera and a colour camera are fixed and placed over the workspace of a robot arm and that the fields of view of both cameras are overlapped. Also, it is assumed that external temperature conditions are constant, and that the integration time parameter of the 3D ToF camera is automatically updated at each data acquisition. Image and 3D data from the scene is captured and processed as described in the next sub-sections. Assume that the ToF camera has a resolution n x ×n y and that the CCD camera has a resolution .
In what follows, vectors and matrices are denoted by Roman bold characters (e.g. x). The j th element of a vector x is denoted as x j , element (i,k) of a matrix A is denoted as Ai,k, a super-index in parenthesis (j) denotes a node within a range of distances, a sub-index within square brackets such as [i] denotes an element of a set.
3.1 Reduction TOF range camera errors
The reduction of range camera errors is a fundamental step to achieve an acceptable fusion of colour and 3D information. The existence of these errors cause the fused information to have issues that range from minor, such as border inaccuracy, to serious such as the loss of information in saturated pixels coordinates.
3.1.1 Distance error reduction
As it is well documented that ToF cameras suffer from a non-linear distance error, several experiments have been developed in order to model and correct the distance error (or circular error) [35, 40–43]. With the purpose of decreasing the influence of this error in distance measurements, a procedure is described below to correct the ToF distance values based on a study of the the behaviour of the camera. This study requires a ToF camera to be positioned parallel to the floor, and a flat panel of light colour and low reflectance, to be mounted on a robot arm. The panel position is also parallel to the floor. The robot arm allows to displace the panel along a distance range and ToF data at different distances can be captured.
Image capture. Since distance measurements are influenced by the camera internal temperature, a minimum time period is necessary to obtain stable measurements . After the camera warms up, ToF information is captured at each of the P different nodes in which the distance range D was divided. Each captured data is defined by an amplitude matrix A of dimensions n x ×n y , and 3D information made up of three coordinates matrices X,Y, and Z, each one of dimensions n x ×n y . In order to generate a model of distance error, a set of distance information in the z axis is formed by capturing N images at each node j, with j=1,…,P. Similarly, sets of distance information for training are defined for the x and y axes, which are denoted as and , respectively. In order to validate the model so obtained, a set of distance information is also formed by capturing M additional images at each node j, with j=1,…,P. Similarly, sets of distance information for validation are defined for the x and y axes, which are denoted as and , respectively. In this article, the sets of information and are also called ToF distance images and are defined as , and .
Angle correction. Correction angles are applied to the ToF information sets for each axis x,y, and z, with the aim of compensating for any 2D angular deviation between the the (x,y) plane of the range camera and the plane defined by the floor. This 2D angular deviation is denoted by the angles θ x and θ y . This correction allows obtaining parameter values as if both camera and panel were perfectly parallel.
and in this way, a vector of dimensions n×1 is defined.
If the pixel position is not considered, then:
- (a)Discrepancy curve calculation stage. In order to test the angle correction effect over the distance error, the same procedure is applied using data before and after angle correction. However, the method is described using data after angle correction. The selected area is used to calculate several parameters including the mean distance value, discrepancy distance value, and mean squared error (MSE). Define a set of distances after angle correction at each node j, with j=1…P. The mean distance ToF over the selected area in all ToF distance images, , at each node j, is calculated by means of:(6)
where the resulting is a vector with dimensions P×1.
- (b)Discrepancy correction. In order to reduce the errors in the distance estimates obtained from the ToF information, the set of ToF distance images for validation is used to validate the discrepancy curve. To this end, a vector of validation ToF distance images after angle correction (dimension n×1) is defined and evaluated on the discrepancy curve to obtain the vector of correction values C (dimension n×1). Then, the corrected distance value for a distance image after its angle correction is calculated as follows:(9)
with j=1…P and where the resulting is a vector with dimensions P×1.
If the position of each pixel is taken into account, then:
- (a)Discrepancy curves calculation stage. Using the N angle corrected ToF distance images represented by , a discrepancy curve is calculated for each pixel at each distance node. At this stage, using N images at each node j, the mean value of each pixel k, where k=1,…,n, is calculated as follows:(13)
where the resulting , whose elements are the values , is a matrix with dimensions n×P.
with δ v of dimension n×P.
- (b)Correction using a discrepancy curve at each pixel. In order to reduce the errors in the ToF distances images, the set of ToF distances images is used to validate each discrepancy curve at each pixel. To this end, each pixel k of the validation vector after angle corrections (dimension n×1) is evaluated on its discrepancy curve to obtain the vector of correction values C v (dimension n×1). Then, the corrected distance vector (dimension n×1) is obtained using the expression(16)
with k=1,…,n, j=1,…,P, and where the resulting is a matrix with elements and dimensions n×P of mean ToF distances values at each pixel for each node.
The mean squared error is obtained by means of Equation 11, where Z is replaced by the corrected values .
A comparison of the MSE values for discrepancy corrected and non-corrected measurements gives a measure of improvement in accuracy due to the discrepancy correction. If no such improvement is detected, then it is recommended to revise the experimental conditions as this may indicate the existence of problems with the experiment.
3.1.2 Correcting the values of saturated pixels
Information from range cameras can be affected by pixel saturation, which is caused by an excessive reflectance of light over objects. Though its effect can be reduced by an automatic updated of the integration time parameter of the ToF camera , in some circumstances like the presence of metal or reflecting paints, this tool is not enough.
- 1.Looking for saturated pixels. According to , pixel saturation occurs when the amplitude values are greater than a given threshold value ζ, which depends on the camera being employed. Hence, the amplitude image is searched for values greater or equal than this value in order to generate a saturation binary mask M with ones at the positions of the saturated pixels and zeros elsewhere. To be able to perform the correction on pixels located at the edges of the image, the amplitude and 3D information matrices are augmented by replicating rows and columns located at the edges of the matrix. Define p as the number of rows and columns of A to be replicated. Define the p upper rows of A as B i,j=A i,j, such that B is of dimension p×n y , where i=1,…,p and j=1,…,n y , and the p lower rows as , such that B ′ is of dimension p×n y , where i=1,…,p, and j=1,…,n y . Define the intermediate matrix as follows:(18)
where i=1,…,n x +2p, j=1,…,n y +2p.
- 2.Correction of saturated pixels. In order to replace an incorrect value with the average of its neighbours, the saturation binary mask is used to find the coordinates of saturated values in the amplitude and 3D matrices and to calculate the mean value of surrounding pixels. Saturated values are not taken into account in this calculation. Define a window-mask , with i=1,…2p+1 and j=1,…,2p+1, of dimensions 2p+1×2p+1, whose center is each saturated pixel with position . In order to calculate a new pixel value to replace a saturated pixel value, define a window of amplitude values , with i=1,…2p+1 and j=1,…,2p+1, of dimensions 2p+1×2p+1, whose center corresponds to each saturated pixel with position (p+1,p+1). The new value for each saturated pixel is calculated as(22)
Define (X,Y) as the initial ToF data, as the distance TOF data after discrepancy correction, and using the index set of amplitude saturated values, a similar procedure to correct the corresponding values of these matrices is applied, obtaining matrices , as these values are affected by the amplitude saturation. Once saturated pixels are corrected, all matrices are resized to their initial dimensions by removing the rows and columns previously added, which results in matrices X′,Y′,Z′, and A′.
3.1.3 Jump edge reduction
where g is of dimension n x ×n y , f is a ToF distance matrix of same dimension as g, S is a 3×3 generalised dilation or erosion mask, and ⊕ and ⊗ are dilation and erosion operations, respectively.
When performing the fusion of ToF and colour information, jump edge reduction is carried out after scaling up the ToF information, as discussed below.
3.2 Colour and 3D information fusion
Information fusion from a standard CCD camera and a ToF camera allows the simultaneous use of 3D and colour information. This can be achieved by means of the reprojection of 3D ToF points into a colour image. In an active security system, moving objects, such as robots and humans, have to be detected to prevent possible collisions between them. To obtain information about these objects and develop the algorithms that make it possible to avoid collisions, the foreground detection is carried out in such way that the fused information is obtained only through those pixels classified previously as foreground pixels. The foreground object detection in a scene is carried out using 2D techniques over 3D ToF points, and subsequently, colour and 3D information from foreground objects is fused.
3.2.1 3D information analysis for detecting foreground objects
where |·| indicates an element-wise absolute value operation.
3.2.2 Reprojection of 3D ToF information into a colour image
With the aim of giving additional colour information to the 3D foreground points previously detected, the reprojection of these points into a colour image was carried out. Using colour and amplitude images, both cameras are calibrated with respect to the world coordinate frame. Since both cameras can be represented by the pinhole camera model [42, 52], a tool such as the Camera Calibration Toolbox for Matlab can be used to extract internal and external parameters for both cameras. External parameters are used to transform 3D ToF information given in the camera coordinate system into the world coordinate system. On the other hand, internal an external parameters are used to reproject 3D information into colour images. Hence, based on calibration camera theory [48, 54, 55] and after the range camera error reduction, the reprojection process is applied over the corrected and transformed 3D points following the transformations described below.
where extrinsic parameters are expressed by the 3×3 rotation matrix R and by the 1×3 translation vector T.
Frequently, standard CCD colour cameras have a higher resolution than range cameras, so the reprojection of 3D points does not have a one-to-one equivalence. Hence, the ToF information is scaled up by bilinear interpolation. In addition to this, as only information of foreground 3D points will be extracted, the automatic thresholding process is applied to the 3D points P c in order to remove those points classified as background, which results in a new 3D point cloud P c′=[X c′,Y c′,Z c′] T .
where the intrinsic parameter f is the focal length in millimetres.
where the intrinsic parameters k u and k v are the number of pixels per millimetre (horizontally and vertically, respectively), s is the skew factor whose value is usually zero in most cameras, and (u0,v0) are the coordinates of the centre of projection.
4.1 Experimental setting
In this article, a method for the fusion of colour and 3D information that is suitable for active security systems in industrial robotic environments is presented. To verify the proposed methods, a colour camera, AXIS 205, and a range camera, SR4000, have been located over the workspace of the robot arm FANUC ARC MATE 100iBe. The AXIS 205 Network Camera used has a resolution of 640 ×480 pixels and a pixel size of 5.08 ×3.81 mm. The SR4000 range camera has a resolution of 176 ×140 pixels and a pixel size of 40 ×40 μ m. This camera has a modulation frequency of 29/20/31 Mhz and a detection range from 0.1 to 5 m.
4.2 Camera calibration
This initial stage is intended to obtain extrinsic and intrinsic parameters from the standard CCD camera and ToF camera by means of a calibration process using a common reference frame.
4.3 Reduction of distance error
To take into account the effect of pixel position in the distance error, a discrepancy curve has been generated for each pixel. These curves are tested by using the set as input, resulting in a correction value to be applied at each pixel. Figure 6 shows in green colour the discrepancy values after the correction with a cubic spline for each pixel.
4.4 Value correction of saturated pixels
4.5 3D analysis for detecting foreground objects and coordinate frame transformation
4.6 Resolution increase
As the standard CCD camera employed provides a colour image which has higher resolution (480×640) than the 3D ToF information (176×144) provided by the range camera, the reprojection of 3D points does not have a one-to-one equivalence. Then, ToF matrices dimensions have been scaled up using a bilinear interpolation and reprojected to the colour image using Equations 30 to 32.
4.7 Jump edge reduction
4.8 Rreprojection of 3D foreground points into colour images
The aim of this work is to achieve the fusion of colour and 3D ToF information in order to apply it in active security tasks for industrial robotic environments, so given the coordinates of a 3D point, this fusion allows knowing colour information and 3D position in a common world coordinate system to both cameras and the robot arm, at the same time.
After obtaining intrinsic and extrinsic parameters by a calibration process, the proposed method of distance error reduction improves the distance measurement values, and the achieved effect in the scene can be observed after the application of the information fusion method. The correction curves obtained are consistent with curves reported by other authors such as  and also consistent with the use of cubic splines in order to approach and correct the distance error . This consistence occurs despite some differences in experimental setup, such as a reduced range of measurement, different ToF camera models, target material, and camera configuration parameters.
As a second stage, saturation error correction must be performed given that in industrial environments, certain materials such as metal or reflecting paints are often present and can produce saturated pixels in the range camera information. The results obtained show that this method works well as it allows the correct visualization of the amplitude image, and more importantly, it corrects values of saturated pixels of 3D points. If these points have incorrect values, the reprojection stage would fail in these positions, as the 3D values would be reprojected as 0, and so its 2D information would be lost.
In order to detect foreground objects, the reference image technique applied to 3D data, after error corrections, has been used and presented as a simple and fast method which yields acceptable results. The 3D points of foreground objects are correctly identified and only a few false positives are detected which can be removed easily using 2D image morphological operations. Traditionally, this technique is used in colour and grey scale images, but illumination variations result in false foreground detection. The advantage of using ToF information is that it has a more stable behaviour in these illumination conditions. In addition, this technique has a short computational time, which is an important factor in order to be develop a suitable strategy for active security of robotic industrial environments. Then, using extrinsic parameters, the transformation of foreground 3D points from the camera to the world reference frame is carried out and scaled up by bilinear interpolation. The proposed method of jump edge reduction, applied to the resulting distance points, minimises false positives and false negatives around an object edge which arise in the pixel reprojection process as a consequence of the presence of spurious pixels that do not have correct 3D values. The achieved results can be considered acceptable since most spurious pixels are removed without changing the object shape, and therefore, a softer 3D point reprojection over objects edges in colour images is achieved.Finally, the reprojection of the resulting 3D points to the colour image is performed. Nevertheless, as can be seen in Figure 16, this reprojection is not perfect, since in spite of having applied distance error reduction, the position of the pixels in the image has not been taken into account, and a single correction value is applied which is a function of the measurement distance but not of the pixel position in the image.
This paper aims to contribute to the research area of active security systems in industrial robotic environments using ToF cameras.
Despite the fact that active security in robotic industrial environments is a wellstudied topic, few previously published methods have dealt with this subject using the combination ToF cameras and colour cameras. The paper describes the development of methods for the fusion of colour and 3D ToF information as an initial step in the design of a system for collision prevention between human and manipulator robot sharing a workspace at the same time. Furthermore, this work provides a detailed mathematical description of the steps involved in the proposed method, so that any researcher can implement it.
The presented method has a different standpoint from the methods previously proposed in the literature, since a common coordinate system is defined for a robot arm, colour camera and ToF camera. The obtained calibration parameters are used to transform the 3D points from the ToF camera coordinate system into the defined common coordinate system, which are reprojected in 2D colour images. This procedure has the advantage that it gives a single matrix made of colour and three-dimensional information; therefore, 3D coordinates of objects inside the robot arm’s workspace are known at the same time as their colour information. In addition to this, the proposed method for jump edge error detection, which is based on morphological gradient, allows the detection and reduction of jump edge error at points which are affected by this error. Also, in order to obtain a suitable fusion of information, a method for detection and reduction of saturated pixels, which is based on neighbour pixels information, has been proposed.
As future work, in order to improve the accuracy of fused information, a modification of the applied distance correction method is suggested. A preliminary study carried out with a small range of distances shows the influence of the pixel position in the distance measurements. Hence, a suggestion for future work is to modify the error correction so that it takes into account the position of the 3D point (measured distance and pixel location).
A possible application to prevent collisions between an industrial robot and a human would be to use colour information to characterise the detected foreground objects and to associate a security volume around each object.
This work has been supported by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Spanish Government (project DPI2012-36959).
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