A Soft Robotic Fish Explores the Ocean

An IT and AI research team from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed what is perhaps the most advanced robotic fish ever built. The Soft Robotic Fish, SoFi for short, was designed to swim and move like a real fish, tail-wiggle and all. The goal was to build a robot that would look and move enough like a fish that it wouldn’t disturb the wildlife it was trying to observe. And so far the test results have been encouraging. In recent tests around Fiji, fish swam very close to SoFi without showing signs of being frightened. For the moment SoFi has only recorded video, but the idea is to fit it with other monitoring equipment such as thermometers.

SoFi can dive up to 18 meters deep and is steered with a remote control from up to 21 meters away. It has enough power to last for about 40 minutes. As radio waves don’t pass very well in water, the researchers use sound waves to transmit instructions to the robot.

The team who developed SoFi hopes to improve the robot’s swimming and vision and plans on launching schools of SoFi to monitor ocean health. 95% of the Earth’s oceans haven’t been explored yet, and with SoFi researchers want to change this. This new technology offers exciting possibilities for monitoring underwater wildlife with minimal disturbance.

About the Author

Monica Hutchings is a Canadian writer and translator from Toronto who has worked on everything from technical descriptions to academic journals. She is our in-house copy editor.

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