Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Underwater robot swims free thanks to wireless controller

Date:
October 1, 2010
Source:
York University
Summary:
A waterproof controller is allowing an underwater robot, dubbed "AQUA," to go "wireless." While underwater, divers can program the tablet to display tags onscreen, similar to barcodes read by smartphones. The robot's on-board camera scans these tags to receive and carry out commands.

A waterproof controller designed and built by York University researchers is allowing an underwater robot to go “wireless” in a unique way.
Credit: Image courtesy of York University

A waterproof controller designed and built by York University researchers is allowing an underwater robot to go "wireless" in a unique way.

Related Articles


AQUA, an amphibious, otter-like robot, is small and nimble, with flippers rather than propellers, designed for intricate data collection from shipwrecks and reefs.

The robot, a joint project of York, McGill and Dalhousie universities, can now be controlled wirelessly using a waterproof tablet built at York. While underwater, divers can program the tablet to display tags onscreen, similar to barcodes read by smartphones. The robot's on-board camera then scans these two-dimensional tags to receive and carry out commands.

Cutting the cord on underwater robots has been a longstanding challenge for scientists; water interferes with radio signals, hindering traditional wireless communication via modem. Tethered communication is cumbersome and can create safety issues for divers.

"Having a robot tethered to a vehicle above water creates a scenario where communication between the diver, robot, and surface operator becomes quite complicated," says Michael Jenkin, professor in York's Faculty of Science & Engineering and co-author of the forthcoming paper, Swimming with Robots: Human Robot Communication at Depth.

"Investigating a shipwreck, for example, is a very delicate operation and the diver and robot need to be able to react quickly to changes in the environment. An error or a lag in communication could be dangerous," Jenkin says.

Realizing there was no device on the market that fit the bill, Jenkin and his team at York's Centre for Vision Research, including the paper's lead author, MSc student Bart Verzijlenberg, set to work constructing a prototype. The resulting device, fittingly dubbed AQUATablet, is watertight to a depth of 60 feet. Aluminum housing with a clear acrylic cover protects the tablet computer, which can be controlled by a diver using toggle-switches and on-screen prompts.

"A diver at 60 feet can actually teleoperate AQUA 30-40 feet deeper. Needless to say this is much easier on the diver, physically, and much safer," Jenkin says.

The tablet also allows divers to command the robot much as if they were using a video game joystick; turn the tablet right and AQUA turns right, too. In this mode, the robot is connected to the tablet by a slim length of optical cable, circumventing many of the issues of a robot-to-surface tether. The optical cable also allows AQUA to provide video feedback from its camera to the operator. In a totally wireless mode, the robot acknowledges prompts by flashing its on-board light. Its cameras can be used to build 3-D models of the environment which can then be used to guide the robot to particular tasks.

"This is a huge improvement on [a robot] having to travel to the surface to communicate with its operators," Jenkin says.

In past, divers have used laminated flashcards to visually communicate with robots while underwater. However, these limit the diver to a pre-set sequence of commands.

"It's impossible to anticipate everything you're going to want the robot to do once you get underwater. We wanted to develop a system where we could create commands on the fly, in response to the environment," he says.

Jenkin and Verzijlenberg's paper will be presented at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Taiwan.

Jenkin and Verzijlenberg are two of the researchers based in York's new state-of-the-art Sherman Health Science Research Centre, which officially opened on Sept. 14, 2010. Jenkin leads the Canadian Centre for Field Robotics, which is based on the building's main level. The centre is supported by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The AQUA project is funded in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). York's Centre for Vision Research is part of the Faculty of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

York University. "Underwater robot swims free thanks to wireless controller." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100930161832.htm>.
York University. (2010, October 1). Underwater robot swims free thanks to wireless controller. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100930161832.htm
York University. "Underwater robot swims free thanks to wireless controller." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100930161832.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Printed Cookies Just in Time for Christmas

3D Printed Cookies Just in Time for Christmas

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) A tech company in Spain have combined technology with cuisine to develop the 'Foodini', a 3D printer designed to print the perfect cookie for Santa. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Etihad Superjumbo Flight in December

First Etihad Superjumbo Flight in December

AFP (Dec. 18, 2014) The first flight of Etihad Airways' long-awaited Airbus A380 superjumbo will take place later in December, the Abu Dhabi carrier said Thursday, also announcing its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner route. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ford Expands Air Bag Recall Nationwide

Ford Expands Air Bag Recall Nationwide

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The automaker added 447,000 vehicles to its recall list, bringing the total to more than 502,000. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins