Thanks to for this story about how a Robotic Fish Moves Like The Real Thing — So It Can Observe The Real Thing:
Scientific advancement: It’s all in the wiggle.
OK, it’s a lot more complicated than that. But when a team of researchers at MIT unveiled their robotic fish Wednesday, one of the keys they emphasized was the graceful undulation of the prototype’s tail — which, besides being rather eye-catching, serves a crucial role in the robot’s ultimate mission: giving scientists the ability to unobtrusively observe marine wildlife remotely.
“Because the fish moves through undulating movement rather than thrusters, the impact it has on how the water moves around it is much more like what is expected of physical fish,” Daniela Rus, director of the school’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, tells NPR.
In other words, unlike many of the vehicles currently used in underwater scientific observation, their Soft Robotic Fish — or SoFi, for short — doesn’t rely on propellers or jet-based propulsion. Those methods have the tendency to generate loud noise and turbulence, which, according to the paper Rus and her colleagues released Wednesday, “have the potential to scare marine life and to prevent closeup observations.”
Instead, SoFi has a tail built with soft material and powered by soft artificial muscles, allowing it to move in a way that’s a little less intrusive and, for that reason, a little more likely to get close to aquatic life acting naturally. With visibility reduced underwater, this could mean its camera has a better chance at snapping some candid shots to pass on to marine biologists.
During their tests, the robot “did not seem to impact the activity of the other fish around it,” Rus says. “We saw fish swimming by it. We saw schools of fish doing their thing. When our fish went by the other fish did not seem to change what they were in the middle of doing.”…
Read and watch the whole story here.