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News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

New Robotic Hands Let Deep-Sea Divers Grasp And Prod

•, By David Hambling
A new remote-controlled robotic hand will allow deep-sea divers to handle and feel objects underwater almost as easily as they can in air. This could transform deep-water operations, from marine biology to pipeline repair.

Atmospheric Dive Suits (ADS) are required for dives below three hundred feet. The ADS is a human-shaped hard shell enclosing diver so they can breathe air at normal pressure. ADS become more sophisticated in some ways over the last century, but they still have primitive lobster-like claws called prehensors rather than hands.

The tremendous pressure at great depths makes gloves impractical, but prehensors are clumsy and awkward. One operator compares them to using chopsticks. Considerable practice is needed to achieve any expertise, and even then, there is only one possible movement or 'degree of freedom,' opening or closing the claw. The lack of contact makes it hard to pick up irregularly-shaped objects, and prehensors cannot hold ordinary tools like drills and hammers. Everything is a lot of work, and some jobs are impossible.


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