So, LIDAR or light-based-radar availability and price range has dropped considerably over the years to the point of being relatively cheap even. So we jumped at that!
I spent the last bit of time jumping into working with LIDAR. The lidar unit model is capable of 10hz which translates to 2000 samples per second. I initially got the laser to work using a visualisation program known as RVIZ which is part of the Robot Operating System (ROS). ROS is sort of the de-facto open source robot/machine learning system… that being said it is brittle and with very little documentation for use outside of getting set up. I initially tried to get ROS running on my native mac OSX environment but ran into complications running on El Capitan, so ill put that off for a later date.
Through an ubuntu virtual machine (with much trial and error) I finally got a laser point visualisation, which you can see in the video below. What you are looking at is a college student in his natural habitat practicing for his entrance into the ministry of silly walks.
Some time after getting this working, the LIDAR took a small tumble off a desk and stopped working. For a total of 3 days that same college student frantically took the device apart, wiggled a few of the connections and re-aligned the laser sensor with the laser beam using a 3rd party laser source. After that it started working correctly again.
The next step is to get the laser vis into a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) program.