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Humanoid Robot Explores ShipwrecksHumanoid Robot Explores Shipwrecks

The diving robot from Stanford University allows operators to feel and interact with the ocean surroundings

Scarlett Evans

August 4, 2022

2 Min Read

Stanford University researchers created a humanoid diving robot that can access deeply-sunk vessels and objects, and features a haptic feedback system that simulates the feeling of items encountered so operators can experience what the robot does.

The robot, known as OceanOneK, also comes fitted with 3D vision and eight multidirectional thrusters to help it navigate a variety of underwater situations. 

According to the researchers, the purpose of OceanOneK is twofold; to explore previously unexplored sites, and demonstrate robotic capabilities in translating a robot’s experience into human touch, vision and interactivity.

“You are moving very close to this amazing structure and something incredible happens when you touch it: You actually feel it,” said Oussama Khatib, director of the Stanford Robotics Lab. “This is the first time that a robot has been capable of going to such a depth, interacting with the environment, and permitting the human operator to feel that environment,”

OceanOneK was adapted to explore greater depths than previous iterations, with the team using glass microspheres for the robot’s body to provide buoyancy while still withstanding high water pressure. The robot’s arms were also filled with an oil and spring mechanism, with the oil compressed to match external pressure to prevent the robot’s outer shell from collapsing.

Thus far, OceanOneK has explored a sunken Beechcraft Baron F-GDPV plane, Italian steamship Le Francesco Crispi, a second-century Roman ship, a World War II P-38 Lightning aircraft and a submarine called Le Protee. 

The team has plans for future expeditions, including archaeologically significant sites as well as areas of natural beauty – some of which are facing climate change-induced damage and require inspection.  

“Distancing humans physically from dangerous and unreachable spaces while connecting their skills, intuition, and experience to the task promises to fundamentally alter remote work,” said Khatib. “Robotic avatars will search for and acquire materials, build infrastructure, and perform disaster prevention and recovery operations – be it deep in oceans and mines, at mountain tops, or in space.”

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