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AutonoMusings - Robots in a Space Odyssey and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

AutonoMusings - Robots in a Space Odyssey and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
By Joshua Ouellette • Issue #8 • View online
It’s been a busy week here at AutonoMusings. While Josh attended The Information’s Autonomous Vehicles Summit, I took a field trip down to South Bay to meet with robots and their creators. 
One of the cool things that I learned this week is that it costs $60k per hour to keep an astronaut up in space. In that time, you don’t want him or her doing menial tasks like cleaning so you build robots to do those things. Barrett Ames, who’s finishing his PhD at Duke and interning at Toyota Research Institute this summer, told me all about building a dexterous humanoid robot for NASA that cleans air vacs in space stations. Doing that requires great Inverse Kinematics to calculate how a robotic arm should be positioned to reach the right point. Check out the video here – and in case you’re inclined to build your own robotic arm, here’s Barrett’s Track_IK repo, which solves IK problems quickly and reliably. 
I also met with Gerald Brantner, who along with his colleagues in Oussama Khatib’s Robotics Laboratory at Stanford, is creating a humanoid underwater robot to explore the deep ocean. Fondly dubbed ‘Ocean One,’ the robot has already retrieved artifacts from ‘Lune,’ a french naval vessel that sank in 1664 and now sits 300 ft (91m) below the surface of the water off the coast of Toulon, France. In its second deployment, Ocean One explored underwater volcanoes in Santorini, Greece.  One of the most unique things about this robot is that it gives a human pilot the ability to dive ‘virtually’ with an avatar-like bi-manual control interface that lets you guide the robot’s hands and experience what it’s feeling through haptic devices. Rumor has it the well-travelled Ocean One is currently undergoing upgrades to prepare for missions to even deeper depths. Check it out here. 

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Joshua Ouellette

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