Scientists explore the ocean floor with half-crab-half-car behemothS

Do not judge the Crabster by its lame name, which sounds more like the nickname of a frat guy from a terrible '80s movie than it does a badass ocean-roving robot. A portmanteau of "crab" and "lobster," two creatures after which it is modeled, the Crabster was designed by researchers in South Korea to help them do science on the ocean floor.

Via IEEE Spectrum, which covered the Crabster's maiden plunge earlier this week:

Robotic underwater vehicles play an important role in marine research,environmental operations, deepwater exploration, and search-and-rescue missions. Most ROVs and AUVs rely on propellers, which allow them to maneuver swiftly and dive to great depths. But there are certain places these machines can't easily access because of strong currents. To overcome this hurdle, researchers at the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) sought inspiration not from fish but from legged sea creatures like crabs and lobsters. The result was Crabster.

Its first major underwater tests took place at KIOST's South Sea Research Institute, located in Geoje City, South Korea. That's about seven hours away from the lab where it was built, but luckily the 600 kg (1322 lb) robot and its remote control station were designed to be easily transported in a pair of shipping containers. In total the robot is 2.42 m long, 2.45 m wide, and 2 m high (7.9 ft x 8 ft x 6.5 ft).

Unlike ROVs and AUVs, the Crabster is designed to be lowered by crane to around 200 meters (650 feet) below the surface, where it will walk along the sea floor on six legs powered by 30 joints. Moving on legs will hopefully prove more stable, and won't stir up as much debris as propellers. And like a crab or a lobster, the robot's two front legs are equipped with manipulators that can grasp objects that can be stored in a frontal compartment. The researchers also designed the robot's shell to deflect strong currents by adjusting its overall posture.

Not as nimble, it seems, as this 3D-printed spiderbot. Then again, Crabster also weighs over 1300 pounds and can scuttle around on the ocean floor doing science. So yeah. Tradeoffs.

Read more at IEEE Spectrum.