Let The Mer-Bot Be Your Avatar: Impressive ROV Technology

There is so much infrastructure below the ocean’s surface that constantly needs to be maintained and monitored in order to prevent environmental disasters or mechanical failures. Oil rigs, pipelines, fiber optic cables, bridges, and so much more are being exposed to the corrosive nature of sea water day after day. Repairing and maintaining these critical structures is no easy task. Remote-operated underwater vehicles (ROV) have been used for quite some time to monitor and work on these structures, but often these machines are clunky and the robotic arms are limited in what they can accomplish. Sending divers down can put lives at risk, especially if the weather is less-than desirable or the structure is severely damaged. Now there may be a solution to this problem, roboticists at Stanford University have created a humanoid robot named “mer-bot” that is only 5 feet long and its hands are extremely dexterous.

The mer-bot uses a human operator that utilizes an advanced control system so that their arm and hand movements can control the mer-bots extremities. Its intuitive design allows the operator to control the mer-bot just as though they were the ones on site performing the task. In the video below you can see how the operator’s movements are seamlessly transferred over to the robot and learn about its maiden test mission where it recovered a 350 year old vase, among other items.

Video Credit: nyti.ms/21XmuAm

“We connect the human to the robot in very intuitive and meaningful way, – The two bring together an amazing synergy. The human and robot can do things in areas too dangerous for a human, while the human is still there.” a statement made by Khatib, Stanford computer scientist and leader of the development team. bit.ly/1OiABhc

This is a huge breakthrough for ROV’s, being able to remove the person from the dangerous area while still being able to be present at the job site. Conventional ROV’s are anything but immersive, the camera’s can be set to a fixed position, they’re large and the robotic arms are not able to perform the intricate tasks the mer-bot can.

Having the ability to merge humans and robots at this level is an enormous step forward in ROV technology. Taking a diver out of a potentially dangerous situation could make it much easier to safely maintain underwater infrastructure and further explore the darkest depths of the ocean. Robotics technology is advancing at an amazing pace and looking beyond remotely-operated robots, the University of Washington of is looking to manufacture robotic hands that have the dexterity of human hands while being able to work and grasp on their own. To find out more about the University of Washington’s latest robot hand technology, you can read more here: http://mfgtalkradio.com/incredibly-capable-5-fingered-robotic-hand/

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000004391469/sciencetake-meet-the-humanoid-mer-bot.html?smid=tw-nytvideo&smtyp=cur

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/a-merbot-retrieved-artifacts-louis-xivs-sunken-flagship-180958950/?no-ist