One major research issue associated with 3D perception by robotic systems is the creation of efficient sensor systems that can generate dense range maps reliably. A visual sensor system for robotic applications is developed that is inherently equipped with two types of sensor, an active trinocular vision and a passive stereo vision. Unlike in conventional active vision systems that use a large number of images with variations of projected patterns for dense range map acquisition or from conventional passive vision systems that work well on specific environments with sufficient feature information, a cooperative bidirectional sensor fusion method for this visual sensor system enables us to acquire a reliable dense range map using active and passive information simultaneously. The fusion algorithms are composed of two parts, one in which the passive stereo vision helps active vision and the other in which the active trinocular vision helps the passive one. The first part matches the laser patterns in stereo laser images with the help of intensity images; the second part utilizes an information fusion technique using the dynamic programming method in which image regions between laser patterns are matched pixel-by-pixel with help of the fusion results obtained in the first part. To determine how the proposed sensor system and fusion algorithms can work in real applications, the sensor system is implemented on a robotic system, and the proposed algorithms are applied. A series of experimental tests is performed for a variety of configurations of robot and environments. The performance of the sensor system is discussed in detail.
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