Scientists create humanoid robot that can dive underwater to explore shipwrecks

Scientists at Stanford University in California have created a robot that can dive down in deep ocean to locate shipwrecks and sunken planes which is impossible for humans to do. The humanoid, OceanOneK, is controlled remotely, and gives feedback to the user, who is dubbed as “virtual diver”, allowing the operator to feel like they’re underwater explorers.

The machine has anthropomorphic hands, sensors and limbs, and is perfect for exploring the deep-sea with unprecedented versatility.

The robot has two eyes for stereoscopic vision, and with its nimble arms and hands, it can manoeuvre through difficult marine environments while providing realistic feedback to the operator. It is fitted with computers and eight multi-directional thrusters that allow it to carefully navigate through the sites of fragile sunken ships.

As it has force sensors in each wrist, the pilots can get a feel of the weight of any object whenever OceanOne is holding one. This feature is called haptic feedback.

The robot’s intelligence is furnished by the merbot’s “brain”, which has tactile pressure sensors that can prevent it from crushing anything in its grasp.

The merbot’s batteries are contained in its tail, along with computers and a set of underwater thrusters. Pairing that with its navigation system, it can keep itself steady even in turbulent waters.

Scientists claim that OceanOne’s nimbleness is one of its impressive features that surpasses the recently deceased deep-ocean diving robot Nereus. They say that the humanoid can provide help in more dangerous sea environments, such as the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor site.

According to CNN, Stanford University roboticist Oussama Khatib and his students recently teamed up with deep-sea archaeologists and began sending the robot on dives in September last year. The team just finished another underwater expedition in July.

So far, the machine has been sent to explore a sunken Beechcraft Baron F-GDPV plane, Italian steamship Le Francesco Crispi, a second century Roman ship off Corsica, a World War II P-38 Lightning aircraft and a submarine called Le Protée.

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“You are moving very close to this amazing structure, and something incredible happens when you touch it: You actually feel it,” said Khatib, the Weichai Professor in Stanford’s School of Engineering and director of the Stanford Robotics Lab, was quoted as saying.

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“I’d never experienced anything like that in my life. I can say I’m the one who touched the Crispi at 500 (metres). And I did. I touched it, I felt it.”

Scientists believe that OceanOneK heralds a new revolution in deep sea exploration where robots take on underwater expedition that is considered dangerous for humans, and help see oceans in a completely different way.

(With inputs from agencies)