What is a Motion Plan?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Motion plans are the logical progression of steps programmed into a robot. The motion plan essentially functions as the means of issuing an order to the robot to commence a certain course of action, and systematically feeds the unit the next process in the sequence once the previous step is completed. The projection for the future is that robots will be programmed to perform all sorts of routine tasks around the home, such as vacuuming a room at a specific time of day, or manipulating light switches on a routine schedule.

The exact process for making use of a motion plan will vary somewhat, depending on the capabilities of the autonomous personal robot. Each type of task may require more or less steps in the sequence from initiation to completion. At the same time, the ability of the robot to utilize the mechanical equivalents of vision and touch will impact the exact structure of the motion plan.


At present, there are already examples of simple home robotic units that make use of a motion plan. One of the more popular devices of this type is the small self-propelled vacuum unit available today. This simplistic designs can be activated and allowed to move freely about the room. The motion plan that runs the unit provides simple orders to provide suction along the surface of the floor. At the same time, the motion plan also issues orders for movement in the event that the device runs into an obstacle, such as a chair leg.

More sophisticated robots that can perform simple household tasks are under development. These advanced models will make use of a more complex motion plan that the relatively simplistic vacuum cleaner robots of today. For example, the advanced systems will include machine vision that will make it possible for the device to make use of a robot hand to flip light switches off and on, or lock and unlock doors at specified times and locations around the home. By loading the coordinates of the interior space and using the machine vision to “see” the switches and locks, the robot will be prompted to move toward a designated location, identify the switch or lock, and perform the programmed task.


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