The deep-sea fauna is very delicate and fragile, and perhaps that is what makes it so precious to every marine biologist. However for years, biologists were unable to collect these deep-sea corals efficiently. Looks like the problem is finally solved, all thanks to “Squishy Fingers”- the robot with soft and spongy grabbers.
There’s a limit to what humans can do. They can dive into oceans even rough waters but diving too deep isn’t possible. To reach where no man (in-person) has reached before, robots are used. However, the robots used for collecting corals have heavy, rigid claws that make it unable to take the corals to surface with little or no damage.
That is what made Robert Wood, Harvard engineer and a Roboticist, and David Gruber, a marine biologist, to team up and create a robot that can safely extract corals from deep sea and take them to the surface for study.
The team took inspiration from the sea creatures like snake or tube worm to come up with two different shapes grabbers. One works like a pair of hands and the other wrap itself around the corals to recover them safely. The soft grabbers were developed using materials like fiberglass and silicone, along with Kevlar for reinforcement. Another reason for using such materials is to make the technology inexpensive and easily reproducible and repairable.
The team conducted its first field test back in May 2015 in the Northern Red Sea, making dozens of successful dives and retrieving precious samples of deep-sea corals.
The team also hopes that the technology will be highly useful in above-water operations as well including gene expression analysis, biological sampling, archaeology, etc. The roboticist, Robert Wood, also plans to integrate the sense of touch technology as well into the ROV to enable the operator feel the grab as well.
Featured Image Courtesy of: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/soro.2015.0019