SBIR Phase II: Collaborative Subsea Manipulation Interface

Period of Performance: 04/15/2016 - 03/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

BluHaptics Inc
108 NW Canal St
Seattle, WA 98107
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this project results from the advancement of telerobotic control technology for subsea operations. As humans deploy and maintain ever more complex underwater hardware, conduct subsea scientific sampling and exploration and develop natural resources in hostile, deep and remote locations, the need for ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) is increasing. ROVs have transitioned from basic transport and inspection tools to mission critical machines for construction, maintenance and intervention. Despite advances in sensing and machinery, significant challenges persist which have plagued the industry with high costs and unacceptable downtime, as well as safety risks. Limited situational awareness, data deluge and inadequate manual operator controls combine to create high rates of equipment breakage, unpredictable and inefficient task completion and high mission overhead. This work is developing innovative products for 3-dimensional visual awareness and computer assisted control systems for subsea teleoperated robots. Divers can be replaced in hazardous situations by telerobots using this technology. The rate of untoward incidents and their severity will be reduced for a large range of subsea activities. Economic benefits include reduced costs, new employment opportunities, competitive advantages and contributions to the national technological infrastructure in subsea operations. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 project will address fundamental challenges of connecting higher-dimensional data from remote environments to intuitive controls. Its intellectual merit is the refinement of a collaborative approach to command and control allowing ROV pilots to communicate seamlessly with each other and the robotic system. This will be done by developing several foundational innovations that, separately, enhance capabilities (and may become individual products), and that together derive immense value to the customer. These technologies are in the areas of: (1) Pilot Interface/Control room software; (2) Sensor fusion and processing; (3) Task assistance and workflow management; and (4) Manipulator and vehicle control. Successful implementation of visualization, sensor fusion, control methods, and haptic virtual fixtures serves as an excellent demonstration example of these technologies. With these technologies combined into a single software platform and integrated with a robotic system, increased performance, predictability, and safety can be achieved in a way that surpasses what is currently possible for purely automated or manual robotic systems. Although this work is focused on underwater operations, it can also be extended to terrestrial applications, such as industrial assembly, welding and machining, nuclear maintenance and robotic dredging and excavation.