MIT’s new deep-sea robot has a mind of its own

MIT’s new deep-sea robot has a mind of its own

Scientists at MIT have been developing and testing a research robot that can assess, adapt, and react to outside influences, without human input.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unleashed their latest creation upon the world last March – underwater research robots that can navigate and make decisions on their own. According to the developers that worked on the new robots, the data they collect could be used to monitor fisheries, map unexplored underwater environments and even identify new species.

Typically, scientists must spend the bulk of their time programming research robots to perform low-level tasks: ‘turn left, move forward 50 meters, turn right, move forward 100 meters…” You get the picture. The new technology developed at MIT grants underwater research probes more “cognitive” power, allowing researchers to focus on broader aspects of their project instead of tedious script-writing.

The developers responsible for developing the autonomous research robots tested their work during a research cruise in Western Australia. They were able to test multiple versions of the autonomous research software, and were delighted to find that the underwater vehicles could parform listed functions in concert without running into each other. By all measures, the test was a success.

MIT scientists hope to use the underwater robots to expand the scope of their research by accessing remote areas of the deep ocean.The vehicles’ ability to adapt and replan missions on their own will allow researchers to safely tack around reefs, canyons, and shipwrecks, all while collecting good data in the most efficient way possible. The robots’ ability to avoid collisions will save countless headaches and troubleshooting for researchers trying to study ocean environments.

The team says that the software has possible applications in other industries as well, including air travel, defense, and space exploration.

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