[Narrator] It seems like a novelty,
a robotic diving system
that looks like an adorable transformer.
But OceanOne-K is able to go to depths
that would kill a human diver,
and it can handle delicate objects without breaking them.
So the idea was to build a robot
that can imitate the human shape
so that it can be your avatar as a diver.
[Narrator] This avatar mode is made possible
through a haptic system,
which allows the operators to literally feel
what the robot touches.
It is like if your hand is inside the computer.
I mean, I have to say you’re very good.
Wire spoke with Professor Oussama Khatib,
to understand how he and his team designed,
built and tested the robotic diver.
[bright upbeat music]
A remotely operated vehicle,
in this case an underwater ROV,
is tethered to a ship and controlled by an operator.
OceanOne-K was designed with archeology in mind.
We wanted to design lightweight arms
to interact with scientists.
We wanted them also to be safe
for their interaction with the environment.
The challenge is, how can you do that?
[Narrator] The team tackled three main design challenges;
Bimanual manipulation, haptic feedback, and buoyancy.
The first challenge, handling delicate objects underwater,
started here, with the hands.
So we decided to go for a design
that uses underactuation.
It was very efficient,
but three fingers was not adapted
to take all kind of different object
that we wanted.
This hand has the same concept, but it has now four fingers,
different material that is better
for sticking to objects underwater.
I mean, objects underwater are very slippery.
And again, here with one actuation
you are closing the hand.
It turns out that for the first design
we didn’t have actuation for the head.
OceanOne-K can track the motion of your hands,
it can look left and right, up and down.
if you are moving
in a wide simulated environment underwater or wherever,
you have difficulty doing fine manipulation
without the depth information.
So the stereo allows you to really feel
like you see exactly where your hand is
with respect to the world.
[Narrator] These glasses allowed researchers
to see underwater in 3D.
All what you have to do is to take these glasses
and place the glasses, and now you can see in stereo.
So we have a visual interface,
but also you need to do and to connect and feel,
and that is the haptic interface.
[Narrator] The haptic interface allows operators
to feel what the robot is doing.
I always say
haptics is the most difficult thing to explain.
We are using the sensors of the robot,
that detect the forces and the movement.
So if you have an object you are pushing,
you’re going to feel the movement and the forces.
What we do is we resolve them
and send them to the top, through the computer algorithm,
and then we reproduce them on the side of the haptic.
The haptic device is essentially a robot
that is, instead of acting on the environment
is acting on your hands.
And it is reproducing the same forces
that are felt on the robot.
The tactile information is being displayed by six motors
on the haptic device.
I would like to invite you to come and try it.
And so I’m just moving it around.
It is like kind of vibrating
every time it falls into like a hole.
So anything you can model mathematically
you can display haptically.
Is there any delay time?
Since you guys are on the boat.
Very good question.
It’s not like tele operation loop,
the robot autonomous system,
the haptic interface autonomous system,
each of them uses a proxy,
and they are just communicating what is needed
in term of information.
[Narrator] OceanOne-K, the team’s latest ROV,
was designed to go 1000 meters underwater,
But the deeper you dive the more pressure is exerted.
In order to maintain the shape of their diver
while maintaining its ability to float,
the team developed two novel solutions.
ROVs are designed with metal, we couldn’t do that.
We couldn’t build a robot with like thick cylinders,
and heavy structures.
So you’re going to use foam.
It is essentially designed to make the robot float
up to 200 meters.
Now, imagine we want to take this to 1000 meters.
The pressure over is going to be huge.
So the only way you can do that
is by increasing the density.
And if you increase the density
then you are going to have more weight.
More weight means you need more volume,
and you end up with a huge elephant size robot.
Fortunately, material technology developed,
it’s called syntactic foam,
built with hollow micro spheres like glass.
And when they touch each other they are going to resist,
because they’re very strong and very light, hollow.
[Narrator] The pressure underwater at great depths
also meant sensitive electronics needed to be protected.
So they developed this system.
So the arm actually is completely filled with oil.
And this oil is under a pressure coming from outside
through a compensator.
Now, inside the arms, you have the same pressure
as outside the arms, and then you are safe.
Oil filled structures is very important and big challenge.
And believe me, we didn’t know if it’ll succeed.
[Narrator] The team tested their first prototype
on the shipwreck La Lune in 2016.
Between 2021 and 2022,
they dove on several sites throughout the Mediterranean.
Maneuvering anywhere close to a shipwreck
is very dangerous.
500 meters is not a place where anyone can go
and rescue the robot.
We went to Aleria.
We brought a vase from the Roman time that was on the cargo.
We went with the camera inside the Crispy.
We were able to find some very interesting biology.
Structures that are built by iron eating bacteria.
The biologist was surprised also to see
that these are usually found more in the Atlantic oceans,
not in the Mediterranean.
[Narrator] But a delay from September to February
meant that the ROV sat idle for months.
OceanOne-K didn’t like it at all.
One of the arms was really complaining.
To fix the connector you had to disassemble the whole robot
because it’s inside the shoulder.
With underwater, you are hiding a lot of things
inside cylinders, through connectors.
Like it’s very dense inside
and it’s all covered from outside or protected.
I mean, these are prototype of the future robot.
So in the future, the actual robot that will be deployed
will have better integration of component,
placement of component,
all these things that you need
to make your system easy to service.
[bright upbeat music]
[Narrator] So what’s next for the future of OceanOne-K?
Operations underwater are going to be critical
for the future,
and I think not only for archeology
but imagine all the structures, the pipelines,
laying down the fiber that we use for communication.
All these structures require maintenance.
Already we have a haptic device in the space station
developed by one of my former PhD students, [indistinct].
As long as you have an internet connection
you can connect to the robot.
Now imagine we can control a robot
from space all the way underwater.
Technically this is feasible.
There are all kind of practical issues to get to it,
thanks to the conversions of technologies
from computer technology, to material,
to maturity of the field of robotics.
Altogether, that is finally helping robotics
to move forward.
[bright upbeat music]