Idiap participates in a European H2020 project concerned with the teleoperation of a bimanual underwater robot
In 2014, Idiap – together with 6 partners – submitted the DexROV project, which was awarded a grant of several millions francs, to the Horizon 2020 program of the European Commission. The project was officially launched on March 1st 2015 and proposes to equip an underwater robot with two arms that will allow to manipulate tools and to repair infrastructure in the depths.
So far, these robots were used only for inspection tasks. The bimanual capacity offers new, still unexplored application perspectives. Indeed, manipulation operations requiring a high degree of dexterity in deep water have been, up to now, left to human divers, which represents risks to their life and their health.
The big innovation of DexROV is to control bimanual robots from a teleoperation center on land, with the help of an operator wearing an exoskeleton. The underwater vehicle operates at 1000 meters under water and is connected to a boat at the surface. The operator is immersed in a virtual reality environment that is generated from data collected by the robot. This device allows to rapidly intervene in case of a catastrophe and to reduce the costs of the mission (as clients and the teleoperation team stay on land). However, one of the major challenges is linked to the fact that the boat needs to communicate with the control center via a geostationary satellite, which causes a delay of about one second and renders standard teleoperation techniques impossible.
That is where Idiap, whose expertise will allow the development of statistical movement models, intervenes. The latter will be used by the control center to recognize and classify movements preliminarily observed or employed during previous missions. These same models will be used by the submarine to predict the sequence of movements to come and to generate the movement that will be used by the robot momentarily and in an autonomous manner until a new signal of the operator is available.
The targeted applications are the maintenance and reparation of pipelines and oil infrastructures, as well as geology, biology and underwater archeology.