This robotic fish from MIT almost passed for a real one and is controlled with an S controller.
Robots are a good resource for studying the ocean floor since conditions are not very favorable there for the human species. But it does not mean that they are equally invasive for their inhabitants, which is why MIT has designed a robot so similar to a fish that it blends in with the environment.
The idea is that the seabed can be observed without causing a disturbance for the species that inhabit it, since other robots scare them. The shape is really familiar to a fish, but so does its displacement, which is partly thanks to the use of certain materials for its construction.
Investigating like a fish in water
The invention was born, as we said, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), specifically from a team from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). And it has a name: SoFi, from SOft robotic FIsh, because as we can see the part of the tail is flexible and moves like a fish made of meat and thorns.
As we read in the job posting, the robot measures 0.47 x 0.23 x 0.18 meters and weighs 1.6 kilograms, with an autonomy of 40 minutes (thanks to a lithium battery). They’ve tried it so far on Fiji’s Rainbow Reef. Although it is “gutting” it when we see some of the most interesting aspects of this robofish.
His eyes are, just like, a fisheye camera, how could it be otherwise
In addition to the tail, made of flexible 3D-printed plastics and silicone, it has a buoyancy tank that allows you to control its buoyancy. autonomously and a quieter propulsion system than the usual propellers, helping this mimicry that characterizes it. His eyes are, as such, a fisheye camera, how could it be otherwise, which captures images and high-resolution video that it transmits live.
And beware, the controller could not be something conventional either. Researchers have turned to a Super Nintendo controller (protected with a housing with water resistance) to be able to drive SoFi along the seabed, being able to go in a straight line, turn and vary in depth, which the robot receives thanks to the communications system that they have designed specifically for the project.
How does it work? SoFi nothing thanks to an engine that pumps water into two chambers located inside the tail, working as pistons would in an engine. The average speed it reaches is approximately half a body per second.
Be the nosy neighbor
The authors consider that it can be useful in that sense that we pointed out at the beginning by allowing a less invasive exploration. It is also considered by other experts such as Cecilia Laschi, professor of bio-robotics at the Santa Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa (Italy), who, according to MIT, maintains that such a robot would allow a closer exploration than current ones by being able to stick more to the reef and have a better acceptance by the species that inhabit it.
It certainly seems more pleasant for a natural congener than something like that humanoid robot to rescue treasures that we saw a little less than two years ago, although there are still aspects to improve of SoFi such as speed or efficiency in swimming, which synthesize the work in the end.
The goal is for SoFi to be an instrument to study marine life without human intrusion for long periods of time and even pose create SoFis banks. Another branch of research will be to see if the robot is capable of influencing the behavior of marine species, and can also be used in this sense.
Images and all information | MIT
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