June 28, 2022

RE2 Starfish400x275RE2 LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corp., has announced it achieved a significant technical milestone with its Strong Tactile mARitime hand for Feeling, Inspecting, Sensing and Handling (STARFISH). The underwater end-of-arm tooling project is being funded through the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research to develop an advanced gripper with tactile feedback for mine countermeasures and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) for the Navy. The company said it has successfully assembled and lab-tested a complete STARFISH gripper that can grasp and hold a variety of different objects.

During lab testing, RE2 said the STARFISH prototype used three tactile-sensing fingers to successfully achieve a variety of fine- and large-gripping skills, including squeezing a pair of tweezers and grasping larger objects. Each finger conforms to the shape it is grasping, enabling it to securely hold objects upon contact, the company said.

RE2 is developing this technologies with professors Veronica Santos, director of the Biomechatronics Laboratory at UCLA, and Jonathan Posner, professor of mechanical engineering and chemical engineering at the University of Washington. The teams designed the multimodal tactile sensor skin that enables the grippers’ sensorized fingertips to feel normal and shear forces.

“When visual feedback is limited, complementary senses such as touch play a critical role in completing dexterous tasks,” said Santos. “This is true for humans as well as robots remotely controlled by humans. Tactile sensation will enhance the teleoperation and semi-autonomous control of underwater robot hands for difficult manual tasks.”

“STARFISH uses advanced touch sensors and next-generation haptic feedback to provide operators with the last link in terms of robotic perception capabilities – the ability to ‘feel’ objects in the environment,” said Adam Brant, project manager at Sarcos. “This will enable EOD personnel to locate, sense, and interact with objects they both can and cannot visualize from a remote, safe distance.”

RE2 said the gripper  uses an advanced array of visual and underwater sensors to orient itself to its environment. The system will operate in hazardous underwater environments that would typically damage end effectors, including turbidity, ocean swells, and other dynamic underwater conditions. Data collected from the gripper’s interactions with the environment will be sent back to the operator control unit, allowing the operator to perform complex manipulation task from a remote location.

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The next phase for the STARFISH gripper will be a test with RE2's Sapien Sea Class underwater arm mounted on an ROV.

“STARFISH significantly advances the capabilities of underwater robotics across a variety of military and commercial applications,” said Jorgen Pedersen, chief operating officer at Sarcos. “Adding the STARFISH EOAT to our Sapien Sea Class robotic arms will provide robot operators with even greater mobility, visualization, and dexterity in precarious underwater environments.”

The company said the next phase of the project will be to attach the STARFISH grippes to Sapien Sea Class underwater arms, which will then be mounted on an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and tested in a subsea environment.

For more details on RE2 and its technologies, visit its website here.