The world is filled with coral reefs that need protecting and deep sea shipwrecks worth investigating, but these actions can come with great risks to the fragile human body. Researchers at Stanford University have combined the agility of humans and the hardiness of machinery to create a revolutionary, humanoid robotic diver. OceanOne has already successfully explored a shipwreck from 1664 and is said to have limitless potential for future conservation research.

Described as looking like a robotic mermaid, OceanOne features a human-like face and arms with a “tail” that houses its batteries and thrusters. Its eyes allow researchers to see exactly what it sees and its arms can be fully controlled by the team sitting comfortably above water. OceanOne’s hands are the most unique feature, equipped with sensors that tell the person in control if it is grasping something heavy or light, firm or delicate. This feature is essential for careful recovery dives.

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“OceanOne will be your avatar,” said Stanford computer science professor Oussama Khatib. “The intent here is to have a human diving virtually, to put the human out of harm’s way.” By creating a robot to do the work too dangerous for people, much more of the ocean can be explored and dangerous labor, like underwater oil-rig maintenance, can be completed safely.

OceanOne can work in tandem with human divers or on its own. In April of this year, the robot visited the site of the 1664 shipwreck of La Lune off the southern coast of France. No humans have ever touched the remains, but OceanOne was able to give researchers a front row seat to the wreckage and recover delicate items from the site. The future will hold several more robots, who can complete highly skilled tasks together and open a whole new world of ocean exploration.

+Stanford University

Via Stanford News

Images via YouTube (screenshot)