[Breakthrough] NatGeo Explorers Devise Sensitive Robot Hands For Coral Reef Exploration
Breakthrough is a new series of posts that we have come up with to spotlight groundbreaking and unique research findings regardless of industry. Our primary motive is to give you students an idea of how vast career opportunities are, and urge you to look beyond the limited streams that you are normally recommended to join. Most of the breakthroughs are so specific and require highly specialized skills, but more importantly, they are very unique and innovative.
The first of them is in underwater exploration, particularly, coral reef, and how soft robotics plays a role. David Gruber is a marine biologist of Baruch College, who first discovered the biofluorescent sea turtle in Solomon Islands. When inspecting coral samples, David found out that the samples were damaged due to harsh handling by the robots used to fetch them from the sea bed. This also disrupts the marine life on the sea bed. Robots have to be used in most cases as the corals grow at depths too great for human divers.
To solve this specific problem, David sought the help of roboticist Robert Wood. The two National Geographic explorers designed squishy fingers for these robots that would help them grasp coral samples very tenderly without damaging them. The research was funded by National Geographic.
Taking their success to the next level, the two researchers are trying to embed sensors to these robotic fingers. These sensors have an array of utility. Operators of the robots can actually feel the strength of the grip, and also help conduct tests right on the sea bed instead of ripping coral samples. This improves accuracy of their results when the samples are examined in their natural environment, will reveal their natural tendencies and will not be subject to any stress.
Soft robotics is a branch of robotics that is more suited to sensitive tasks that require flexible and deformable robots. Food processing, archeology and medical fields are few in which the application of soft robotics is immense.
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