A Stanford University professor has designed a scuba diving robot or a humanoid robotic diver, which archeologists hope will open up a new realm in deep sea exploration.
OceanOne, as it has been named, was designed by Stanford computer science professor Oussama Khatib.
OceanOne has already been used to examine the shipwreck of La Lune, the flagship vessel of King Louis XIV that sank in 1664 AD off France’s southern coast, while a human operator guided it from the surface.
Khatib studied the site prior to the expedition when he spotted a grapefruit-size vase.
Using a set of joysticks to control the scuba diving robot, Khatib hovered over the vase, reached out, felt its contours and weight and stuck a finger inside to get a good grip.
Force sensors transmitting haptic feedback to the pilot enabled these moves. The feedback, researchers say, is so sensitive they themselves can feel the weight and texture of an object.
Khatib then moved the humanoid over to a recovery basket, gently laid the vase down and shut the lid.
The vase was brought safely back to the boat, where Khatib was the first person to hold it in 300 years.
‘OceanOne will be your avatar,’ Khatib said.
‘The intent here is to have a human diving virtually, to put the human out of harm’s way.’
‘Having a machine that has human characteristics that can project the human diver’s embodiment at depth is going to be amazing.’
Dubbed ‘robo-mermaid,’ the robot is roughly 5 feet long, with a head featured on top that is programmed with stereoscopic vision, which lets the controller see the underwater world as if they were actually swimming in it.
It has two fully articulated arms. Its ‘tail’ region houses the batteries, computers and eight multi-directional thrusters are housed.
Each wrist is fitted with force sensors that send haptic feedback to the controller, allowing them to feel objects.
The artificial brain reads data and makes sure the bots hands are firmly secure when holding an object, and also that it doesn’t damage things.
‘You can feel exactly what the robot is doing,’ Khatib said.