OceanOne the humanoid robot made its maiden voyage 100 meters below the Mediterranean. Exploring the wreck of La Lune, the flagship of King Louis XIV that sank in 1664, 20 miles off the southern coast of France.
Stanford researchers developed the orange and black humanoid robot in “hopes that the robot will one day take on highly skilled underwater tasks too dangerous for human divers, as well as open up a whole new realm of ocean exploration.”
Oussama Khatib, a professor of computer science at Stanford, said in a statement:
“OceanOne will be your avatar.
“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.”
The recent dive on the La Lune was a huge success, with artifacts being recovered. Stanford described the event in a statement, saying:
“Khatib… spotted a grapefruit-size vase. He hovered precisely over the vase, reached out, felt its contours and weight, and stuck a finger inside to get a good grip.
“He swam over to a recovery basket, gently laid down the vase and shut the lid. Then he stood up and high-fived the dozen archaeologists and engineers who had been crowded around him.”
OceanOne is around five feet long, with its torso featuring a head with stereoscopic vision that allows the pilot to see exactly what the robot sees, and two fully articulated arms. The tail of the robot contains all the batteries and computers as well as eight multi-directional thrusters.
However, it’s the hands that really set it apart from the rest of its body with each of the fully articulated wrists being fitted with force sensors that relay haptic feedback to the pilot’s controls. This enables the pilot to feel whether the robot is grasping something firm and heavy, or light and delicate (there are plans to cover each finger with tactile sensors).
“You can feel exactly what the robot is doing.
“It’s almost like you are there; with the sense of touch you create a new dimension of perception.”
Although the pilot can take control at any moment, the robot is somewhat autonomous. It has sensors throughout its body to gauge current and turbulence, and can automatically activate its thrusters to remain in place.
OceanOne navigation system relies on its awareness of the environment, using both sensors and cameras; the data is then run through smart algorithms that help it to avoid collisions. If it senses that it won’t slow it down quickly enough, it will brace for impact using its arms.
“We connect the human to the robot in very intuitive and meaningful way. The human can provide intuition and expertise and cognitive abilities to the robot.
“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.”