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The Antelope

We can now add diving to the list of Ds—dirty, dull, dangerous—in robotics. Introducing Ceto, the latest addition to our family of robots. Named after the Greek goddess of the dangers of the ocean, Ceto loves to dive deep into the unknown, far deeper than any human, which is why she was the best choice for a mission to discover our past, one that made her quite the celebrity.

Built in 1861 in Newport by JJ Wolverton, the Antelope was a schooner barge designed for heavy cargo such as coal. Loaded with 1000 tons of it at the Pennsylvania coal dock in Sanduski, Ohio, she was headed to Ashland, Wisconsin. Under tow by another steamer, her seams opened up in choppy waves and she foundered and finally sank in Lake Superior in 1897 where she remained lost to history, until now.

After being discovered with sonar images, shipwreck hunters Ken Merryman, Jerry Eliason and Kraig Smith used a drop camera to get an initial look, but needed an ROV to explore further. Diving was not a viable option given the depth and danger from the unknown condition of the wreck. That’s when they called for Ceto. Easily deployed and capable of reaching depths of 600 metres, it wasn’t long before Ceto was sending back images of the ship, confirming her identity.

The Antelope is one of the most intact schooners ever found in the Great Lakes, with her masts still standing. After the discovery was confirmed, we let Ceto play around in Lake Superior for a while. She deserved it. Good job, Ceto. She is now being used to find other wrecks around the world.

Each of Ceto’s eyes produces 1500 lumens.

Tough little Baz

In robotics we call dirty, dull, and dangerous work the 3Ds. People hate that kind of work, but robots don’t. Most of our robots spend their time on the first two, dirty and dull work like industrial inspection, mapping, and perimeter patrols, but a select few of our robots live only for danger.

One of them is a robot we call Baz. Baz is an Aeryon SkyRanger in service with a military. We can’t say where—Baz is very security conscious—but we can tell you that Baz lives at a remote forward operating base and spends his days and nights searching for the enemy snipers who hunt his human friends.

Small & quiet, Baz is rarely seen. But one morning, while conducting a dawn patrol, the rising sun glinted off Baz’s underside. That was all the waiting enemy sniper needed. He fired a single round that tore through Baz’s payload and core, then nicked one of his spinning propellors.

For most robots such damage would have caused them to crash into the sandy earth. But not for Baz was this ignoble fate. With system warnings flashing across his distraught handler’s screen, Baz’s autopilot kicked in and brought him limping home (actually, we’re not sure a flying robot can limp). But either way, he made it back to his comrades-in-arms.

And did Baz ask for leave? Time off to recover? You know the answer. His handler replaced his payload and propellor, put tape over the holes in his core, and sent him back into the fight where he belongs.

Te Salutant, Baz!

Digging in the dirt

Here at the Robotics Centre’s lab, we like to keep things clean. Dust can penetrate the internal circuits of a robot, clog air intakes, and settle on lenses. All robots hate dust.

All except Dale, that is, who loves it. In fact he loves it so much that every night when the humans go home, he leaves his base to free graze on all the dust he wants.

Dale is the centre’s i-Robot, specifically designed to vacuum in places humans have difficulty reaching. And so he spends his nights under shelving, behind filing cabinets, under washroom sinks, etc. Then when the sun comes up he retires to his base to sleep the day away.

Yesterday, however, our staff was alerted via text message that Dale did not make it back to his base, which meant he was most likely trapped somewhere.

They arrived to find that Dale had in fact been trapped by another vacuum! Aside from Dale we have cleaning staff who look after surfaces and windows, places Dale can’t reach. One of the staff left the Dyson vacuum hose against the wall. Dale told us he must have knocked it over as he was rounding the corner and it trapped him, coiling around him like a python. Dale tried communicating with it but since Dyson’s are older systems, they have no communication or diagnostic systems and so he was forced to spend the night doing nothing but waiting for the humans.

Neither system was injured and in the morning Dale was put back on his base to charge.

He avoids the Dyson now, always giving it a wide berth, not fully convinced it was an accident.

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