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Robotics Science Technology

Stanford Built a Humanoid Submarine Robot To Explore a 17th-Century Shipwreck (ieee.org) 47

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Back in April, Stanford University professor Oussama Khatib led a team of researchers on an underwater archaeological expedition, 30 kilometers off the southern coast of France, to La Lune, King Louis XIV's sunken 17th-century flagship. Rather than dive to the site of the wreck 100 meters below the surface, which is a very bad idea for almost everyone, Khatib's team brought along a custom-made humanoid submarine robot called Ocean One. In this month's issue of IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, the Stanford researchers describe in detail how they designed and built the robot, a hybrid between a humanoid and an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and also how they managed to send it down to the resting place of La Lune, where it used its three-fingered hands to retrieve a vase. Most ocean-ready ROVs are boxy little submarines that might have an arm on them if you're lucky, but they're not really designed for the kind of fine manipulation that underwater archaeology demands. You could send down a human diver instead, but once you get past about 40 meters, things start to get both complicated and dangerous. Ocean One's humanoid design means that it's easy and intuitive for a human to remotely perform delicate archeological tasks through a telepresence interface.

schwit1 notes: "Ocean One is the best name they could come up with?"

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Stanford Built a Humanoid Submarine Robot To Explore a 17th-Century Shipwreck

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  • This is just a dual arm AUV that they built the 3D camera mounts to look like a head.

    The same functionality can be done without making it look humanoid, so what is the attraction for manufacturers to do so? It probably adds extra cost to the project for no appreciable gain.

    • It is explained. The reason was to facilitate the remote controlling by some kind of VR setup. If you turn your head, you expect something similar to happen to your robotic avatar. If you raise your arm, it's better if the distance between your "eyes" and your "shoulder", and the relationship of lengths of your "arms", is human-like. So you end up with a human-like structure. If you want to protect your sensors with a hull, a head-like cover is as good as any other.

      On the other side, there are many other al

      • by bruce_the_loon ( 856617 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @06:51AM (#53542499) Homepage

        I got the technical reasoning for the arm design and the stereo cameras, but the head feels unnecessarily restrictive to me. It precludes the added utility of independently steerable cameras or adjusting the distance between cameras to get an exaggerated binocular vision which can be useful for certain retrieval and manipulation operations.

        I guess I always tend to think that humanoid robots are trying to do something the more difficult way than one that is built more along the functional requirements. Like using a three axis arm instead of a more flexible segmented snake that could reach into impossibly twisty gaps.

        • Well, it seems to me it is designed to functional specs, where the PRD phase probably said something like "it should work like a person, but without risk of death" and then they went about figuring how to build that. Humans don't have snaky arms with additional articulation points, so how would someone in a VR motion capture suit control that?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      If only they would provide some kind of citation or maybe just a simple pointer to an article that explains the choices they made and why. They built a robot that has a moveable, 3D camera, two articulated arms, and it has two pods on the back that can move to stabilize it. Seems like it has a humanoid shape, but yeah, all the expense they went to make the camera round was a huge waste of money.

      Almost forgot... it is totally awesome, and I want one. I want to read more about the control systems, though. S

  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @06:18AM (#53542429) Journal

    Ocean One is the best name they could come up with?

    That's the kind of names that happens when you concentrate on the product, and not on the marketing of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "schwit1 notes: "Ocean One is the best name they could come up with?""

    That was totally unnecessary and frankly a stupid observation to add.

  • We are far too much into the splotlight lately on /.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    > You could send down a human diver instead, but once you get past about 40 meters, things start to get both complicated and dangerous.

    Well for a scuba diver on oxygen, yes, but 100 meters would not be much of a problem for a diver using trimix. This statement is not quite true.

    • Screw underwater salvage, this looks like a pretty good satellite repair bot, replace thrusters with gas jets, and operate from the ISS or xb37 with dedicated link.

    • Yeah, agreed. Recreational divers shouldn't be messing around at that depth, but technical divers do it all the time. Just have to have decompression facilities available.
      • Yeah, agreed. Recreational divers shouldn't be messing around at that depth, but technical divers do it all the time. Just have to have decompression facilities available.

        However, those divers and all their support personnel and equipment are pretty pricey. I'd be willing to bet this robot is going to be much cheaper.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Dunno, if you start having to breath a special air mix and have concerns about decompression, than I would definately say things are starting to get "complicated and dangerous" exactly as the article describes..... What qualifies as not starting to get complicated or dangerous in your mind?

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Getting a bunch of grad students qualified on trimix, getting the equipment and breathing mix where you need it and making sure you've got decompression facilities available in case of an accident is complicated. In contrast, marine archeology at 30 m usually involves renting a dive boat and maybe sending some students to a recreation dive course (available in any city; mine cost $500) if they're not already qualified.

      Academics usually don't have quite the resources of corporations or navies.

  • Some more background information that was posted by Stanford last April
    http://news.stanford.edu/2016/04/27/robotic-diver-recovers-treasures/ [stanford.edu].
    IMO contains most the the details in TFA mentioned here.

  • by Grand Facade ( 35180 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @07:50AM (#53542639)

    The kind of money that it took for the expedition and the robot, they didn't bring back just a vase.

    They are just saying that while hiding the real loot behind their back.

  • "Ocean 11" has a much nicer ring to it.

  • The rear end of this vehicle is almost shaped like a mermaid tail. Any reason why it uses thrusters for propulsion and not, say, a fluke?

  • The article says it's about the size of a human, but it sure looks larger in the picture. (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/stanford-ocean-one-humanoid-diving-robot)

    I suppose it's still an improvement over a larger ROV, but I wonder if there are hatches in ships that it cannot pass because of its size?

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