Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals systems, methods, and computer readable media to improve the operation of graphics systems. Because the patent points to the system working with "a mobile telephone, personal media device, a notebook computer system, or a tablet computer system," it would strongly suggest the system is for a graphics system relating to gaming platform or an API for Apple's Metal – and not for the easy headline that it's for autonomous vehicle playing off of Apple's Project Titan. While the patent's background uses the term "Autonomous Agent," the actual patent description makes no mention of an autonomous vehicle or car ever. Trying to attribute this invention to Project Titan in my view is completely off-base. Technically, the Autonomous Agent could however, relate to a possible drone device that Apple may be working on. But first and foremost, the focus is on a graphics system.
Simulations of multiple agents sharing a common workspace or environment have gained increasing attention for purposes such as crowd simulation, navigating a team of mobile robots, video games, studying natural flocking behavior, traffic engineering, and emergency training simulations. The basic idea behind collision avoidance is to generate a steering force to dodge obstacles every time one is close enough to block the passage. Steering behaviors help autonomous agents move in a realistic manner, by using simple forces that are combined to produce improvisational navigation around the agent's environment.
Apple Invention: Collision Avoidance of Arbitrary Polygonal Obstacles
Apple's invention relates generally to the field of computer graphics. More particularly, but not by way of limitation, it relates to a technique for allowing an agent to navigate through an environment without colliding with obstacles therein.
Apple notes that in one embodiment the disclosed concepts provide a method for an agent to avoid collisions with obstacles in an environment. The method includes identifying a current position of an agent in an environment; determining a motion vector corresponding to the agent's current position; identifying a first obstacle in the environment, the first obstacle having a plurality of edges; determining a first plurality of edge vectors, each edge vector corresponding to an edge of the first obstacle and extending between a closest point of a corresponding edge and the motion vector, wherein each of the first plurality of edge vectors is orthogonal to its corresponding edge at the corresponding edge's closest point; selecting, from the first plurality of edge vectors, a first edge vector that intersects the motion vector closest to the agent's current position and whose corresponding closest point is within a bounding radius of the agent; determining a first force based on the first edge vector and the motion vector; and applying the first force to the agent.
The disclosed method is applicable even when the agent lacks a prior knowledge of its environment, is agnostic as to whether the environment is two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D), whether the obstacles are convex or concave, or whether the obstacles are moving or stationary.
A computer executable program to implement the method may be stored in any media that is readable and executable by a computer system.
Apple notes that their patent filing uses the term "agent" which may mean any object or body upon which forces may be applied.
For example, agent #105 Patent FIG. 1 may represent an automobile, person, animal (real or imaginary), or a drop of oil flowing through water.
Apple's patent FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate two possible fields of view; FIG. 5B is part of a flow chart relating to collision avoidance.
Apple's patent FIG. 6B illustrates how two agents having different fields of view moving through a common environment may effect different obstacle avoidance actions.
Apple patent application 20160358485 was filed in June 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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