Ocean One K, Archaeologist of the Abyss

Haven’t you always dreamed of venturing deep into the abyss?

The most cautious minds would immediately reject this idea. These undersea depths have been largely unexplored for a good reason: they are perfectly inhospitable to human beings. At these depths, there is no method of excavating and recording the remains of the hundreds of thousands of wrecks that lie on the ocean floor.

Ocean One K, the underwater robot developed by Stanford University’s Robotics Laboratory
© Stanford University

And yet, there is one individual for whom this exploration of the abyss is just another formality: Ocean One K. This remotely-operated humanoid underwater robot is capable of diving to depths ranging from 100 m to 850 m and, above all, of excavating shipwrecks, taking samples from the seabed and carrying out various other scientific experiments. Like an authentic archaeologist, the robot reveals the secrets buried by the oceans, and even manages to restore tactile sensations when excavating, thanks to the cutting-edge sensors of its haptic feedback system. The inventor behind Ocean One K is Professor Oussama Khatib, Director of Stanford University’s Robotics Laboratory and coordinator of the “LIRMM-Stanford” CNRS international research project in underwater robotics and medical robotics.

U.S. premiere of the documentary “Ocean One K – Archéologue des abysses” at the French Embassy

To document the scientific and human adventure of Ocean One K, Gedeon Programmes and Planete+, together with the French Department of Subaquatic and Marine Archaeological Research (DRASMM), the French Defence Communication and Audiovisual Production Establishment (ECPAD) and Stanford University, have co-produced the documentary film “Ocean One K – Archaeologist of the Abyss”, recounting the conception of Ocean One K and its early adventures. The documentary is directed by Mathieu Pradinaud. A screening of the 52-minute documentary was held on February 28 in the auditorium of the Maison Française of the French Embassy in Washington D.C., in the presence of Oussama Khatib and Stéphane Millière (the film’s producer and President of Gedeon Mediagroup).

Oussama Khatib presenting the exploits of Ocean One K at Deep Dive Dubai.
© Erell Gloaguen/CNRS

As a prelude to the documentary, Professor Oussama Khatib introduced the audience to Ocean One K by presenting the remarkable collaboration between Deep Dive Dubai (the world’s deepest diving pool, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) and Stanford University’s Robotics Laboratory. He outlined the robot’s various object-gripping capabilities, and explained how its haptic sensors work to restore tactile sensations from a distance. In addition to its archaeological missions, the robot is also capable of carrying out repairs and maintenance operations (e.g. on underwater pipes), and could play a role in protecting the oceans through pollution clean-up and scientific analysis.

“Ocean One K – Archaeologist of the Abyss” gave the public an unprecedented insight into underwater research. Documenting the excavation of Roman shipwrecks, Louis XIV naval vessels and contemporary buildings, the film takes viewers on a journey through time, delighting archaeology, art and history aficionados and robotics enthusiasts alike.

Following the screening of the documentary, Laetitia Doyle, the film’s distributor, head of Terranoa‘s US office and president of French In Motion, hosted a Q&A session with Oussama Khatib and Stéphane Millière. The two speakers recounted the story of their meeting, their collaboration and the memorable moments of the shoot, and answered many questions from the audience. The audience was made up of around a hundred people, adults and children alike. The evening was open to the general public.

From left to right: Laetitia Doyle, Oussama Khatib, Stéphane Millière.
© Erell Gloaguen/CNRS

A fascinating robot for all ages

Professor Oussama Khatib answering questions from Lycée Rochambeau students
© Erell Gloaguen/CNRS

Earlier in the day, some 30 students from Lycée Rochambeau (a French international high school located in Bethesda, near Washington D.C.) had the opportunity to speak directly with Oussama Khatib.

The teacher shared the story of the robot’s design with the students, and answered their questions about the robot’s humanoid appearance and the cost of building it.

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