Idaho Researchers Develop Language For Underwater Robots
Researchers at the University of Idaho are teaching underwater robots to speak, learn and make decisions on their own.
The research isn’t just a flight of science-fiction fancy, says Dr. Dean B. Edwards, the mechanical engineering professor who is leading the project. Instead, it could eventually make it safer for the military to search out underwater mines in harbors.
The military and other organizations already use “autonomous underwater vehicles,” but the work of Edwards and other researchers at Idaho suggests the possibility of teams of cooperating robots hunting for mines. The robots can even use experience to improve performance over time. Eventually, the technology will be given to the U.S. Navy.
“This is kind of a new scenario,” Edwards told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. “Now you have communications between the vehicles and these cooperative behaviors.”
The research is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through UI’s Center for Intelligent Systems Research. The system could also be applied to other industries, with the robots used for water quality testing or pipeline inspections.
When used for mine sweeping, Edwards says, the robots could do the entire job without putting any humans in harm’s way.
Once they’re down there, they’re on their own,” Edwards says.
Edwards and his team used complex algorithms and linguistics to create the robot’s language, expressed in sound waves underwater. The robots use microprocessors communicating over a network, much like the way different computers in an office communicate with each other, says associate professor Dr. Richard Wall.
— Associated Press
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