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This may work, but it still seems like a very unsatisfactory solution to me. Having to litter the area with ultrasonic transmitters doesn't seem terribly practical, although its possible that if they could be manufactured cheaply enough this might be a way of having a relatively inexpensive robot navigation system in the home.
To do robot navigation reliably without ad-hoc modifications to the environment you really need cameras or lasers (or both). At present lasers are out of the equation because they're still too expensive for anything other than research or high end industrial applications. Cameras however are much more economical, but require the processing power of a modern PC to meaningfully interpret the data. So you either need a PC onboard the robot, or some hardware which can transmit camera data over a wifi network to a desktop PC which can then do the number crunching.
Although having to put sensors everywhere dosn't seem very usefull, if the robots themselves carry them then I think it can a good way to control swarm robots. As for lasers, I'm not sure about the expensiveness of them. What kind of laser and other materials are requred for a good range finder?
For your typical laser ranger a laser beam fired in the vertical axis hits a spinning mirror or prism which redirects the beam through 90 degrees and out at the current angle in the horizontal plane. The beam then shoots out, and is reflected back from an object hitting the mirror again and being redirected back up to a sensor. Knowing the speed of light (it's fast!) and the total time of flight the system can work out the range to the object surface. All this has to be done quickly to be of any practical use on a robot moving at speed.
The cost of scanning laser rangefinders does seem to be falling, but not very fast. If some company were to come out with a device costing $50 I think that would change the robotics landscape, but it doesn't look as if this is likely to happen any time soon. Currently scanning laser rangefinders cost around $2000.
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