In the video above, we see a diver lift a box, contents unknown. He moves slowly, and—wait—that’s not a diver. It’s an unusually lifelike humanoid robot. His name is OceanOne, and he was created by Stanford University’s Robotics Lab.
OceanOne is exploring the shipwrecked La Lune, the 17th century flagship of King Louis XIV resting on the sea floor off Toulon, France. The wreck rests 100 meters below the surface, but OceanOne can go as deep as 1,000 meters.
OceanOne’s designers made its appearance so humanlike as part of their effort to create a virtual explorer that can be organically controlled using natural movement. The hope is to make the relationship between operator and robot so seamless that controlling it becomes much like controlling one’s own limbs. The operator even receives haptic feedback from hand controls, so he or she experiences the sensation of physically feeling what the robot is doing and touching.
Computer science professor Oussama Khatib describes the relationship between robot and operator as “intuitive and meaningful,” with the pairing creating an “amazing synergy,” which will allow humans to explore locations beneath the sea where we otherwise wouldn’t be able to survive.