Space & Innovation

Humanoid Robo-Mermaid Dives For Lost Treasure

Stanford University's underwater robot went diving off the coast of France and retrieved treasure from a 17th century wreck. Continue reading →

Ariel, is that you? This bright orange underwater robot might not have the fairytale character's beautiful form, but the humanoid bot can dive like a fish and safely explore dangrous areas for its friends on the surface.

Described as a robo-mermaid, the OceanOne robot was created by a team at Stanford University led by computer science professor Oussama Khatib. Initially intended to study coral reefs at depths in conditions that would be dangerous for human divers, the robot has become an underwater super-explorer.

Measuring about 5 feet in length, OceanOne has a tail that contains batteries, multi-directional thrusters and computers, according to the university. This isn't just another submersible, though. The tethered bot has a human-like head with stereoscopic vision and articulated hands that can be controlled from a ship through a haptic interface. Sensors automatically gauge water conditions, activating thrusters to keep the bot in place.

Robots Inspired By Water Creatures: Photos

The built-in smarts and haptics turn the robot into a sophisticated virtual diver that can go thousands of feet deep without needing any oxygen. "The most amazing thing about it is that you can feel what the robot is doing while sitting up on the boat," Khatib explained in a Stanford University video.

Recently OceanOne was put to the test 20 miles off the southern coast of France. Working in partnership with French underwater archeology researchers, Khatib's team sent the bot to explore "La Lune," the King Louis XIV flagship that sank in 1664. With Khatib's hands at the controls, the bot gently hooked a vase and put it in a recovery basket.

After the robo-mermaid was back on board, everyone naturally celebrated the find with champagne. The bot even got bathed in some. The vase ended up being in surprisingly good condition, but the bot has bigger fish to fry.

Tentacled, Underwater Robot to Explore Tight Places

Khatib and his team envision OceanOne being used for more dangerous tasks like underwater mining, oil rig maintenance and disaster recovery. The team hasn't lost sight of its original intent to monitor coral reefs worldwide, either. They see the human-friendly bot as a way to do that safely.

While the bot can't actually sip champagne or do a victory dance, it's still undeniably part of our world.

click to play video

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is celebrating "30 Days of the Ocean" in the month of June, and in honor of the organization's hat-tip to life undersea, we take a look, this final June weekend, at some of the organization's captivating marine life snapshots. Here, the eyes of a queen conch (

Strombus gigas

) peek out from under its shell in La Parguera, Puerto Rico.

PHOTOS: 30 Days of the Ocean

Kelp and sardines, just doing what they do, off Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Whales Get Fishing Tips From Peers

This school of permits contains 60-80 individuals, each more than a foot long. The school was observed in the Dry Tortugas, Florida.

PHOTOS: Shipwreck Hunt Turns Up 'Tar Lilies'

A Caribbean spiny lobster strolls on the sea floor. This photo was shot during a 2010 NOAA expedition in the U.S. Virgin Islands to map underwater habitats and the marine life they support.

Deep-Sea Methane Ecosystem Found in Atlantic

DNA testing confirmed that the eggs pictured here were those of a loggerhead turtle, a marine reptile species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The testing was done by NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, in Charleston, S.C., the only lab in the country dedicated to forensic analysis of marine species.

PHOTOS: Sea Turtles From Shell to Surf

This manta ray coasts over a reef, in the process inviting much smaller fish to clean parasites and other debris off of it. Manta Rays are the largest type of ray in the ocean.

The World's Biggest Manta Ray Sanctuary Created

Make way for the balloonfish, also known as a porcupine or spiny puffer fish. As its name suggests, it will swell up like a balloon when attacked.

VIDEO: Flushed Fish Invading Oceans

Here we see a close-up of brain coral in the Dry Tortugas, Florida.

Off the California coast, a group of elephant seals sleeps in the sun on a sand dune on Active Point, San Miguel Island, part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

With its distinctive reddish and white stripes, its gracefully flowing fins, and its menacing spine, not many fish can embody the beauty, mystery, and danger of the ocean quite like the lionfish. Although it's native to the Indo-Pacific region, lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic and are now found along the U.S. coast, from North Carolina to Florida, and in the Bahamas and Caribbean. The lionfish spells trouble for the balance of ecosystems and fisheries it invades, as it can out-compete native species for food and space. It lacks predators, has a voracious appetite, reproduces quicly, and is spreading fast.