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Underwater robot connects humans’ sight and touch to deep sea


Within the waters of Aléria, Corsica, France. Credit: DRASSM, Gedeon, Stanford University

Because the underwater robotic OceanOneOk fastidiously navigated towards the higher deck railing of the sunken Italian steamship Le Francesco Crispi about 500 m under the Mediterranean’s floor this month (roughly a 3rd of a mile), Stanford University roboticist Oussama Khatib felt as if he himself was there.

OceanOneOk has a humanoid high half and a slimmer again half with eight multi-directional thrusters that enable cautious maneuvering underwater. The robot‘s haptic—or touch-based—feedback system and stereoscopic imaginative and prescient produced extremely sensible sensations that equaled what he would have skilled have been he down under, moderately than above onboard the management ship. Peering by means of OceanOneOk robotic’s eyes and feeling by means of its arms, Khatib perceived a kaleidoscope of life—pink and inexperienced and rusty-orange—layered on and across the ship. He felt the resistance of the water and will discern the shapes and proximity of the historic relic round him.

“You are moving very close to this amazing structure and something incredible happens when you touch it: You actually feel it,” stated Khatib, who’s the Weichai Professor within the College of Engineering and director of the Stanford Robotics Lab. “I’d never experienced anything like that in my life. I can say I’m the one who touched the Crispi at 500 m. And I did—I touched it, I felt it.”

The mission of OceanOneOk to those depths had two functions: to discover locations nobody has gone earlier than and to indicate that human contact, imaginative and prescient, and interactivity might be introduced to those websites far-removed from the place individuals can function.

Whereas OceanOneOk had many noteworthy adventures and successes throughout two multi-stop journeys across the Mediterranean, the overriding accomplishment of the crew—which included Michel L’Hour, the previous director of underwater archaeology analysis in France’s Ministry of Tradition (DRASSM), Vincent Creuze from LIRMM on the University of Montpellier, Denis Degez and Franca Cibecchini from DRASSM, and the ship’s crew—was demonstrating purposeful autonomy at practically 1,000 m down. It was this advance that earned OceanOne’s renaming to OceanOneOk.

“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,” stated Khatib. “It has been an incredible journey.”

Underwater robot connects humans' sight and touch to deep sea
Credit: Andrew Brodhead, Stanford News Service

The primary deep dive

February’s dive to the Crispi had been a part of a multi-stop tour of the Mediterranean for OceanOneOk that began in September 2021 with two stops close to Marseille to a World Battle II P-38 Lightning plane at 40 m (about 130 ft) and a submarine, Le Protée, at 124 m (roughly 400 ft). The third was to a second-century Roman ship in Aléria, Corsica at 334 m (practically 1100 ft) and the Crispi was subsequent.

A seek for appropriate climate then urged the crew towards Cannes. There, the robotic’s growth digicam had its first use in viewing contained in the cockpit of a Beechcraft Baron F-GDPV plane that was 67 m down (over 200 ft). The ultimate dive was to 852 m—over a half mile down—the place, on pausing for a thruster examine, the crew discovered, worrisomely, that the robotic was unable to ascend. OceanOneOk was absolutely functioning however flotations across the communication and energy line connecting to topside had collapsed, leaving the lengthy, heavy line piled on high of the robotic. Pulling within the slack, they have been capable of proceed the dive.

As a commemorative marker, OceanOneOk positioned a plaque on the seabed that learn:

A robotic’s first contact of the deep seafloor
An unlimited new world for people to discover

Underwater robot connects humans' sight and touch to deep sea
Credit: Andrew Brodhead, Stanford News Service

OceanOne … two

OceanOneOk robotic’s expedition to the 1 km mark was lengthy within the works. It began with numerous hours of design, experimentation, and meeting with fellow crew members within the lab, dozens of journeys to the Stanford pool for debugging, and myriad lessons-to-be-learned earlier than dealing with the unpredictability of the actual world.

The predecessor of OceanOneOk, OceanOne had been constructed for reaching depths at most round 200 m. To deliver the robotic deeper, the researchers tailored its physique with particular foam product of glass microspheres that present buoyancy whereas being able to withstanding the immense stress at 1 km depths—stress over 100 occasions the expertise at sea degree. Moreover, the robotic’s arms have been stuffed with an oil and spring mechanism that compresses the oil to match the surface stress, stopping collapse and cushioning the electronics. The researchers additionally up to date many tiny elements all through OceanOne to attenuate the quantity of compressible air residing in particular person components and conserving the robotic as compact as attainable.

OceanOneOk featured extra enhancements that elevated the flexibility of its arm and head movement, and two new kinds of arms—one developed by Mark Cutkosky’s lab at Stanford and one from Professor Antonio Bicchi of the University of Pisa and the Italian Institute of Expertise, IIT.

Prepared for bother

Swimmers at Stanford’s Avery Recreation Pool over the previous couple of years could have seen OceanOneOk taking a dip whereas researchers tried out totally different maneuvers and experimented with instruments. The instruments included bins for carrying objects and the boom-mounted video digicam that may allow them to see inside cramped and inaccessible areas—areas the place the robotic could not go.

Underwater robot connects humans' sight and touch to deep sea
Credit: DRASSM, Gedeon, Stanford University

“It was many months of testing, during COVID, twice a week,” stated Adrian Piedra, additionally a graduate pupil within the Stanford Robotics Lab, as they iterated by means of points till every part—contact, management, imaginative and prescient—labored and not using a hitch.

Such preparation paid off in some ways however specifically when the crew wanted to repair OceanOneOk‘s disabled arm throughout their first expedition. “This required opening the robot into pieces on the deck of the boat, at night, under the wind, and during a storm,” stated Khatib. “Our heroic students—Adrian Piedra and Wesley Guo—were working nonstop to fix the robot.” Their persistence, willpower, and eventual success astonished everybody on board, in response to Khatib.

“The robot has so many features and so many inter-related components that if there’s one part broken, we may need as much as a full day in dismantling, repairing, and reassembling,” stated Stanford Robotics Lab graduate pupil Bo Kim, who traveled with OceanOne and collaborated from campus for OceanOneOk. “Everything has to merge together and work simultaneously to have a successful expedition, and that is truly challenging.”

The July expedition

This summer time, the crew had second possibilities to dive to the Roman ship and the Crispi, following some difficulties with their first visits. After they first interacted with the Roman ship, the crew had tried—however failed—to retrieve an oil lamp from the ship. On the Crispi in February, a fault within the arm prevented using the growth digicam. For the July dives, it was all methods go.

OceanOneOk dove once more to the Roman ship, this time beneath the steering of the crew’s archeologists and efficiently introduced up a handful of treasured historic vases relationship to the Roman Empire, together with some not beforehand seen in DRASSM’s collections. These have been distinctive finds in that they nonetheless bore the identify and label of their producer, exemplifying the advantages of cautious super-deep artifact restoration.

On a second dive to the Crispi, Khatib prolonged the growth digicam into the fractured hull of the ship, being cautious to not contact the rupture edges. The crew’s marine biologist guided him and watched eagerly as the outside corals gave solution to inside rusticles—icicle-shaped rust formations—which confirmed the consequences of about eighty years of bacterial interplay with the ship’s iron.

Underwater robot connects humans' sight and touch to deep sea
Credit: DRASSM, Gedeon, Stanford University

Trying again, and forward

Piedra stated that with hindsight, he has begun to see the larger image, how giant the challenges have been that they overcame, and the way grand the work is that they achieved.

“We go all the way to France for the expedition and there, surrounded by a much larger team, coming from a wide array of backgrounds, you realize that the piece of this robot you’ve been working on at Stanford is actually part of something much bigger,” he stated. “You get a sense of how important this is, how novel and significant the dive is going to be, and what this means for science overall.”

The OceanOne undertaking not solely embodies superior improvements in haptics, underwater robotics, and human-robot interplay, but additionally new alternatives for marine science and underwater engineering actions, akin to inspecting and repairing boats and infrastructure together with bridge piers and submerged pipelines.

Different expeditions are deliberate in quite a lot of locales world wide, together with misplaced cities buried inside deep lakes, coral reefs, and archeologically vital wrecks at depths to date past human attain that OceanOneOk presents a novel alternative for understanding the previous.

“Distancing humans physically from dangerous and unreachable spaces while connecting their skills, intuition, and experience to the task promises to fundamentally alter remote work,” stated 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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Underwater robotic connects people’ sight and contact to deep sea (2022, July 21)
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