Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation-subsidiary RE2 has achieved a technical milestone with its underwater robotic gripper for the US Navy.

The device, named Strong Tactile mARitime hand for Feeling, Inspecting, Sensing and Handling (STARFISH), is being developed for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and mine countermeasures.

The US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) is funding the end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) project.

It achieved the key milestone after the company successfully assembled and lab-tested a complete STARFISH gripper that can grasp and hold different objects.

University of California (UCLA) Biomechatronics Laboratory director Dr Veronica Santos, who is supporting the development of STARFISH, said: “When visual feedback is limited, complementary senses such as touch play a critical role in completing dexterous tasks.

“This is true for humans as well as for robots remotely controlled by humans. Tactile sensation will enhance the teleoperation and semi-autonomous control of underwater robot hands for difficult manual tasks.”

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The device leverages a combination of visual and underwater sensors to perceive the environment. The arms of the STARFISH interactions with the environment and transmits the data to the operator control unit (OCU).

Subsequently, the operator can command the robotic gripper to perform certain tasks.

According to the company, it will be capable of operating in different hazardous underwater environments.

Sarcos project manager Dr Adam Brant said: “STARFISH uses advanced touch sensors and next-generation haptic feedback to provide robot operators with the last link in terms of robotic perception capabilities—the ability to ‘feel’ objects in the environment.

“This will enable EOD personnel to locate, sense, and interact with objects they both can and cannot visualise from a remote, safe distance.”