MIT researchers are at it again as their computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory (CSAIL) creating SoFi, a silicone rubber robotic fish that might unlock some marine life secrets. According to their report, this is the first of its kind that can swim untethered in three dimensions for extended periods of time.
The researchers behind the latest study of the realistic spy, published in Science Robotics, say that robotic fish technology could aid scientists in learning about organisms that are hard for humans to reach. Tested in Fiji, SoFi's spec sheet includes being able to swim more than 50 feet below water for a duration of 40 minutes.
SoFi has been designed to withstand strong currents and is able to capture high-res images using a fisheye lens. Using its undulating tail and a unique ability to control its own buoyancy, SoFi can swim in a straight line, turn or dive up or down. With its alternating movements producing side-to-side actions that mimic real-life fish, which explains the fact that it can swim right up close and personal with other sea life. You can read the report here.
The back half of the robot is comprised of flexible plastic and silicone rubber whilst urethane foam chambers provide buoyancy. Many of SoFi’s components are 3D printed, including the head which encases all of the electronics. The team has also hacked a super Nintendo controller making it waterproof and incorporating and acoustic communications system that enables them to change SoFi’s speed and have it make specific moves and turns.
The only question that remains will have to be, what will happen if another predator confuses this realistic spy fish for a real fish? Filling our oceans with more plastic is not necessarily the best way to study marine life. Going further into the future, maybe MIT should rethink the way their research teams work with projects like this.
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