Underwater Robot Lets Researchers Virtually Explore Shipwrecks


Researchers at Stanford University have created a humanoid robot that could one day change the way we explore shipwrecks, giving archaeologists unprecedented access to previously inaccessible deep sea artifacts. The friendly-looking yellow robot, called OceanOne, recently returned from its maiden voyage, exploring the 17th century wreck of La Lune, the flagship of Louis XIV’s fleet.

Gizmodo explains that human “divers” can virtually control OceanOne from aboard a boat. Using haptic feedback, “divers” can actually feel what OceanOne feels, not only by piloting the robot remotely, but actively feeling the weight of artifacts it grasps. The robot uses some amount of artificial intelligence to pilot itself, but can be taken over by human controllers at any time. Unlike other deep sea robots, OceanOne is streamlined and thin rather than boxy, able to gracefully maneuver tight spaces. It also has fully articulated wrists with fingers, which allow it to handle delicate artifacts without damaging them.

Researchers—like computer science professor Oussama Khatib in the video above—say that controlling OceanOne is an extremely different experience from controlling other underwater robots: Haptic feedback, as well as the robot’s expanded range of motion, make researchers feel like they are really there alongside OceanOne, rather than piloting a machine remotely.

“We connect the human to the robot in [a] very intuitive and meaningful way. The human can provide intuition and expertise and cognitive abilities to the robot,” Khatib said in a press release. “The two bring together an amazing synergy. The human and robot can do things in areas too dangerous for a human, while the human is still there.”

Check out the video above to see OceanOne in action.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Banner Image Credit: Stanford, YouTube