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Robots: The New Deep Sea Divers

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

By: Eliza Sandler

Image by F. Osada and T. Seguin for Stanford News Company

The deep sea is a mysterious place that no man has been able to fully search before. Now, researchers can explore the depths of the great unknown from a comfortable boat on the surface of the water.

How is this possible? With the creation of humanoid robots, the doors to safe exploration are now open. OceanOne, a robotic diver created at Stanford University, dives with the precision and care of a human. Furthermore, OceanOne is able to explore beyond the physical limits of human divers to uncover more about our world.

OceanOne looks like a robot-mermaid. Measuring five feet long, it has movable arms, a tail-like motor, and a wide vision range that the pilot can see through. However, its hands are what truly make the robot exceptional.

The robot’s wrists, hands, and fingers are fitted with sensors that send information from the pilot’s control all the way up on the boat. By using joysticks, the pilots can feel exactly what is hundreds of feet underneath them. They can tell how light or heavy an object is, and thanks to the robot’s “brain,” they can adjust the grip strength so that they touch but do not destroy their findings. Humans are now able to get to the dangerous areas of the sea in a safe and awesome way.

What exactly do these robots explore? They probe coral reefs deep in the Red Sea where no man has gone before. They also explore shipwrecks, such as La Lune off the coast of France. La Lune, King Louis XIV’s ship, sank in the Mediterranean Sea in 1664. However, up until 2016, no human diver had been able to explore it 300 feet down since scuba divers can only go down to 130 feet. OceanOne, on the other hand, easily swam through the La Lune’s interior, investigating its cannons and the items buried within. This is an example of OceanOne’s extremely sensitive, light touch that allows it to move carefully and precisely, leading to amazing finds.

With no time limits or dangers holding human divers back, the deep, deep sea is being explored in new and incredible ways. New discoveries are being made in unstudied ocean territory thanks to robots and their amazing dives!





Editor: Jo Ann Sun

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