A humanoid diving robot designed by robotics scientists at Stanford University has achieved a significant feat for oceanography. This is the first time an avatar, which they have described as a robo-mermaid, has descended to the bottom of the ocean to a shipwreck and retrieved a vase.
The wreck is the La Lune, Louis XIV flagship, which sank 20 miles off the coast of Tolouse in 1664. There were only a few survivors of the tragedy. The wreck, which lies at 100 m on the bottom of the ocean, had never been approached until three weeks ago when OceanOne approached it and retrieved a small vase.
OceanOne was initially not a sea-exploration or archeological robot. However, the robot is better than other traditional underwater ROVs. For starters, it is designed for very precise maneuvers.
The humanoid robot was operated using virtual reality techniques by Oussam Khatib, professor at Stanford University. Basically, it was like playing a video-game. He was on a boat on the surface while operating the robot underwater using a joystick. “The human can provide the robot with intuition, expertise and cognitive abilities. The robot can do things in areas too dangerous for a human, while the human is still there,” Khatib told Stanford News last week.
The humanoid robot is the size of an average human being. It has two-eyed vision provided by two forward-facing cameras. Its hands are completely articulated with force sensors. This means that the operator receives information about the consistency of an object when the robot touches it. This sensors will be enhanced in the future. As for the vessel, Khalib was able to study the object’s feel and weight before bringing it up to the surface.
The success obtained by OceanOne opens the possibility for further exploration and at greater depths.