TRANSCEND: TRansforming Autonomous Navigation, Swarm robotics and Construction by ENcoding Data into surfaces

by J. Lagerwall and H. Voos

With TRANSCEND we will create the foundation for an infrastructure that currently does not exist, yet is dearly needed to keep up with emerging trends in robotics and automation.

The long-term vision is to enable safe cohabitation of robots and humans in everyday contexts, from the intimacy of our homes to construction sites and busy cityscapes. At the heart are the remarkable optics of Cholesteric Spherical Reflectors (CSRs), a versatile new optical component invented in the team, exhibiting omnidirectional reflectivity in a narrow wavelength band with circular polarisation. This enables detection from any direction even in visually complex and dynamic environments, without false positives. By tuning the reflection band outside the visible spectrum, CSRs are undetectable by the human eye, hence aesthetically non-intrusive. We will coat surfaces with CSR-based fiducial markers—effectively invisible QR codes—that link the physical world to its digital representation, allowing Machine–to-Machine (M2M) and Environment-to-Machine (E2M) communication that is reliable, inexpensive and extremely energy efficient. Our technology will assist navigation and real-time trajectory optimisation for robots (individual or in swarms), robot-assisted construction and responsible deconstruction and recycling, supporting the circular economy.

With such broad scope and audacious ambitions, it is clear that TRANSCEND is exceptionally interdisciplinary. The project is feasible thanks to intimate collaboration of two PIs with highly complementary expertise, in materials physics (FSTM) and robotics (SnT/FSTM), supported by international experts in chemical engineering (TU Eindhoven, Netherlands) and construction of built environment (New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA). To ensure a lively interdisciplinary communication along with a vital understanding among the team members about the challenges faced by the others, two PhD students will be recruited simultaneously, forming the core of a coherent team throughout TRANSCEND. Both students will be co-supervised by both PIs, and both will do secondments to the international collaborators.


Prof. Dr. Holger VOOS