• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 10, No 7 (2019)

An Innovative Approach to Developing a 3D Virtual Map Creator using an Ultrasonic Sensor Array

Mahmoud Elsayed, Min Thu Soe, Wong Wai Kit, Hana Abdalla

Corresponding email: stmin@mmu.edu.my

Cite this article as:
Elsayed, M., Soe, M.T., Kit, W.W., Abdalla, H., 2019. An Innovative Approach to Developing a 3D Virtual Map Creator using an Ultrasonic Sensor Array. International Journal of Technology. Volume 10(7), pp. 1344-1354

Mahmoud Elsayed Faculty of Engineering and Technology Multimedia University Melaka, Malaysia
Min Thu Soe - Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Multimedia University, Jalan Ayer Keroh, 75450, Melaka, Malaysia
Wong Wai Kit Faculty of Engineering and Technology Multimedia University Melaka, Malaysia
Hana Abdalla Faculty of Engineering and Technology Multimedia University Melaka, Malaysia
Email to Corresponding Author


Humans shifted their focus toward robots when they realized that, with the increased complexity of built environments and the rapid advances in fields such as manufacturing and civil structures, robots could serve human development. This paper investigates the development of a mobile robot that uses ultrasonic sensors to obtain distance readings and utilizes those readings to draw 3D maps of its surroundings. The robot is designed to perform in narrow spaces and in rough terrain environments, such as underground piping structures or underground wiring networks. The wheeled platform is capable of maneuvering on rough surfaces guided by a specially designed obstacle navigation strategy using ultrasonic sensors. The mounting of the 3D mapping sensors is a new and innovative approach that resolves many of the problems encountered in previous proposed designs for 3D ultrasonic mappers. The 3D mapping sensors obtain data to create a 2D map and position localization data to create a 3D form. This paper presents the results obtained through extensive work on developing the vehicle and testing the control and 3D mapping algorithm.

Localization; Mapping; Mobile robots; Ultrasonic sensors


This paper presents the development of an ultrasonic sensor array capable of building a map of its environment as it travels through it. The ultrasonic sensors are arranged using an original approach to enable a robot to generate a 3D map of its surroundings based on three different perspectives: left, right and top. The authors also propose a novel method to construct a 3D map of the robot routing environment by abstracting the data from the invented sensory arrays.

In terms of biomedical imaging, Salles et al. (2017) estimated the velocity of mechanical waves (MW) produced by natural cardiac events such as aortic valve closure propagating along the left ventricle (LV) wall to visualize the propagation of MW in 3D and achieve a 3D elasticity map of the LV to inspect myocardial fibrosis. Pedrosa et al. (2016) provided an overview of the available ultrasound technology for cardiac chamber quantification in terms of volume and function and presented evidence for the value of these parameters when testing the effect of new cardiovascular therapies.

In the inspection of building structure, De La Haza et al. (2018) discussed the use of a recently developed instrument known as MIRA, which utilizes a patented phased array of dry point contact shear wave transducers to produce 2D and 3D tomography images of concrete structures. This new technology has allowed the operator to obtain in-situ, real-time test results.

Chen et al. (2016) proposed an indoor mapping suite prototype built upon a novel calibration method that calibrates the internal and external parameters of multiple RGB-D cameras. Three Kinect sensors are mounted on a rig with views in several directions to form a large field of vision. However, in terms of hardware, this prototype is bulkier and costly as it requires multiple RGB-D cameras, and the visual data, while satisfactory, are poor in depth data representation. The present authors’ invention is smaller and simpler with less costly hardware as only ultrasonic sensors are required. Depth data representation is also better.

Wang and Niu (2018) used Open Street Map (OSM) data to integrate indoor and outdoor route planning for pedestrians. They focused on the interior connections of buildings and produced a data model that applies OSM primitives (nodes, ways, and relations) and tags to capture horizontal and vertical indoor components as well as connections between indoor and outdoor environments. However, the generated map is 2D, not 3D. The present authors’ development generates a 3D map.

The approach presented in this paper specifically targets 3D mapping tasks for narrow or small spaces as well as geometrically irregular areas, such as tunnels or underground building structures for piping and underground wiring work. Therefore, the wheeled platform was chosen for the design because its wheel motion enables it to navigate a certain level of rough terrain. The 3D mapping robot is designed with a user-friendly interactive control system, which is achieved by providing the user with variable control features in a graphical user interface (GUI).


The approach presented in this paper solves several problems related to the commonly used servo motor-based robotic arm, which held one or two ultrasonic sensors that rotate a minimum of 180 degrees to obtain the desired map. The design arranged the sensor to cover the full 180 degrees by adapting a half-circular pattern and enables the mobile robot to collect data for the 3D map without having to be paused. The test results showed that the mobile robot navigation strategy functions as desired for the selected operating environment. The results for the 3D mapping capabilities of the robot show the expected outcome even though they may seem a relatively inaccurate interpretation of the testing environment. The problem of the accuracy of the results can be corrected by incorporating a noise-filtering algorithm such as the Kalman filter or by utilizing sonar sensors, which provide more accurate results than ultrasonic sensors.


Special thanks to Multimedia University for providing funding for the project, which was a major factor in the development and success of the project (Multimedia University, Mini Fund 2018, MMUI/180176).


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