We now live in a culture in which the everyday person is far more accustomed to the concept of robots and artificial intelligence. But a recent innovation will see AI and a new form of robot involved in a field that had hitherto not been widely anticipated.
Robot Mermaids – Stanford breakthrough
Stanford University professor of computer science, Oussama Khatib, has developed a system which involves such artificial intelligence based in deep sea diving. This avatar-based system is a direct response to the requirement to dive deeper than it is possible for humans to do so comfortably and safely.
The robots created by Khatib, named OceanOne, similarly has the potential to revolutionize the field of deep sea diving permanently. OceanOne involves a human diving virtually, in order to ensure that the diver involved cannot come to any harm. Utilizing a machine with human characteristics which can project the human diver’s embodiment at significant depths will have a sea changing effect on the diving industry.
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Described in some quarters as ‘robot mermaids’, the invention by the Stanford University professor is considered to be a humanoid submersible. The human-like quality of this new invention, coupled with the sensitive and sophisticated touch sensors included in the device, means that OceanOne’s operators are able to utilize the robot to complete a wide variety of underwater tasks. Many of these have previously been impossible for submersible technology, with the new innovation developed to examine coral reef in the Red Sea that is simply impossible for humans to reach.
The OceanOne system is approximately the same size as a human being, and its most notable physical features are flexible, jointed arms which function much like human limbs. The device also features a tale similar to that of the mythical mermaid creature, and this serves the important function of containing the computer system which drives the robots, along with eight multi-dimensional thrusters.
Haptic sensors are fitted on the hands of the robot in order to enable operators to handle potentially fragile objects without fear of crushing them. This will enable the OceanOne assistant to work in delicate environments, potentially further revolutionizing the world of deep sea diving. Khatib has also indicated that the robot will probably be equipped with touch sensors in the foreseeable future to enable even greater usability.
Scientists will have the ability to take complete control of the diving robot, but the ‘brain’ included in the OceanOne device will respond directly to ocean conditions, and can also assist with the modulation of movement. This makes human control almost completely unnecessary, and ensures that the OceanOne device is extremely flexible. “You can feel exactly what the robot is doing,” Khatib stated with regard to this invention. “It’s almost like you are there; with the sense of touch you create a new dimension of perception.”
This unique ability will be extremely valuable for divers who intend to explore wrecks buried deep under the sea, or archeological sites, effectively eliminating the usual human dangers. Indeed, OceanOne has already made its maiden voyage into the wreck of a notable craft. The French King Louis XIV’s flagship La Lune sunk off the coast of France in 1664, and the robotic technology has already examined its remains.
Khatib has demonstrated that the robot has the ability to retrieve a vase without breaking it, and simply the success of this relatively minor operation indicates that OceanOne could be an invaluable tool for researchers who faced difficulties with reaching extreme depths with conventional diving technology. This could potentially have a massive influence over industries such as oil-rig maintenance and deepwater mining. It could also assist with the exploration of the ocean.
This latest invention is indicative of the capabilities of artificial intelligence, and deep sea diving is just one area in which technology can play a major role in the future. This can be considered alarming for many human beings, with predictions that artificial intelligence, robotics and other forms of technology may supplant many human jobs in the coming years.
While the human aspect of deep sea diving is unlikely to be eliminated completely, AI can, and likely will, make a major contribution to the future of the practice.