This small, inexpensive, non-contact laser sensor can detect the location of a retroreflective target in a relatively large volume and up to six degrees of position. The tracker's laser beam is formed into a plane of light which is swept across the space of interest. When the beam illuminates the retroreflector, some of the light returns to the tracker. The intensity, angle, and time of the return beam is measured to calculate the three dimensional location of the target. With three retroreflectors on the target, the locations of three points on the target are measured, enabling the calculation of all six degrees of target position. Until now, devices for three-dimensional tracking of objects in a large volume have been heavy, large, and very expensive. Because of the simplicity and unique characteristics of this tracker, it is capable of three-dimensional tracking of one to several objects in a large volume, yet it is compact, light-weight, and relatively inexpensive. Alternatively, a tracker produces a diverging laser beam which is directed towards a fixed position, and senses when a retroreflective target enters the fixed field of view. An optically bar coded target can be read by the tracker to provide information about the target. The target can be formed of a ball lens with a bar code on one end. As the target moves through the field, the ball lens causes the laser beam to scan across the bar code.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.