RE2 Robotics to develop dexterous, underwater robotic hand for U.S. Navy

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RE2 Robotics has announced that it has received $3 million in funding to develop a dexterous, underwater robotic hand with tactile feedback for the U.S. Navy. 

Known as Strong Tactile mARitime hand for Feeling, Inspecting, Sensing and Handing (STARFISH), the program will create an “advanced end-effector for mine countermeasures (MCM) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions” for U.S. Naval expeditionary forces.

Equipped with next-generation tactile sensing technology and a multi-finger, electromechanical design, STARFISH will give operators the ability to locate, identify and neutralize hidden and visible explosive threats on land and underwater. RE2 notes that STARFISH-enabled manipulators will be deployed on ground-based, as well as underwater robotic, systems to defeat explosive threats.

“The development of STARFISH takes underwater robotic technology to the next level by providing operators with the ability to ‘feel’ and sense the environment around them while remaining at a safe distance,” explains Jorgen Pedersen, president and CEO of RE2 Robotics.

“The use of advanced tactile sensing and intelligent grasping will improve operational performance by removing operators from dangerous areas and allowing them to quickly and accurately respond to explosive threats.”

To develop the hand, RE2 will collaborate with researchers at UCLA and the University of Washington. The hand will utilize state-of-the-art tactile skin and “sensorized” fingertips that are capable of sensing normal and shear forces.

Information provided by external sensing such as cameras, sonar or lidar will be used to command the hand. That information will then be processed with machine-learning algorithms to help the operator manipulate the object.

“Tactile sensing at the end effector can provide a wealth of information about the environment to a robotic system and its operator,” says Dr. Andrew Mor, RE2 principal investigator.

“Using a rich network of sensing, machine learning and assisted manipulation, STARFISH will be able to perceive and then share its interpretation of the environment with the operator, allowing Naval expeditionary forces to manipulate and control the robot at human speed.”