U.S. Office of Naval Research Selects Houston Mechatronics to Develop AI Robotic Hands for Subsea Manipulators

Houston Mechatronics, Inc. (HMI) announced a new award by the Office of Naval Research to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered robotic hands for subsea manipulators.

Robotic systems are increasingly serving in more important roles within the naval battle space as technology matures and desired warfighter stand off distance increases. Typically, robots in the ocean do not have the manipulation dexterity of their land-based counterparts and therefore are not capable of approaching human-level performance. This hinders the robot’s ability to accomplish dexterous manipulation tasks underwater, increases the danger to human operators, and lowers the potential value of robotic system. The team at HMI is developing and fielding highly dexterous robotic hands that use AI grasping behaviors which will be demonstrated with their revolutionary subsea transforming robot Aquanaut.

Houston Mechatronics Aquanaut
Aquanaut transforming subsea robot developed by Houston Mechatronics. The robot can change its morphology from a long range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to an un-tethered Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) platform.

“Our team excels at the rapid development, testing, and deployment of subsea robotic technology and we look forward to merging these capabilities with our knowledge base in humanoid robotics,” said Nic Radford, CTO at Houston Mechatronics. “While our team was at NASA, our bio-mimetic designs worked well on Robonaut and Valkyrie and we look forward to demonstrating the value that dexterous end effectors integrated into capable manipulators will bring to the US Navy.”

The hardware HMI is building will be coupled with AI powered software to enable higher performance. “The field of robotics has always included a back and forth race between the hardware’s ability and the underlying intelligent software which enables the intended function. However, for this effort, we will have to make considerable advancements on each front at the same time,” explains Dr. JD Yamokoski, the Principal Investigator for this project.

HMI will be testing their innovations in robotic hands and dexterity on Aquanaut, a revolutionary transforming subsea robot that can change its morphology from a long range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to an un-tethered Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) platform suited for stable, seabed or water column manipulation tasks.

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