About the robot-
- It is capable of sorting, manipulating and identifying microscopic marine fossils. Such fossils are key to understand of the world’s oceans and climate of today and in the prehistoric past.
- The team of engineering and paleoceanography experts developed the robot, called Forabot, to automate the sorting of forams.
- Physical inspection and sorting of forams can require human time and effort.
- Forabot has an accuracy rate of 79 per cent for identifying forams, which is better than most trained humans.
- Currently, Forabot is capable of identifying six different types of foram and processing 27 forams per hour.
- The robot’s AI uses images to identify the type of foram and sorts it accordingly. It has the potential to be a valuable piece of research equipment, allowing student ‘foram pickers’ to spend their time learning more advanced skills.
- Foraminifera, also called forams, are very simple micro-organisms that secrete a tiny shell, a little longer than a millimetre.
- The organisms have existed in our oceans for more than 100 million years. When forams die, they leave behind their shells.
- Examining their shells give scientists insights into the characteristics of the oceans from a time when the forams were alive.
- Different types of foram species thrive in different ocean environments and chemical measurements can tell scientists everything from the ocean’s chemistry to its temperature when the shell was being formed.