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Robotic fish designed to study ‘secrets’ of marine life

MASSACHUSETTS: An interesting video released by the MIT (Massachusetts institute of technology) computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory (CSAIL) shows a unique aquatic robot named SoFi, designed to study marine life in depth.

It is designed to swim naturally alongside other fish in open water and spy on them without raising suspicions or disturbing their natural habitat.

The un-tethered robot can use its camera to record behaviors of anything from sharks and whales to schools of tiny damselfish. The silicon fish is built by roboticist Robert Katzschmann.

Robotic fish

“To our knowledge, this is the first robotic fish that can swim untethered in three dimensions for extended periods of time,” says Katzschmann.

SoFi is also a cyclops, fitted with a single camera for an eye and a fisheye lens  that provides a wide-angle view of SoFi’s world. Humans operate SoFi using a remote control that transmits ultrasonic signals from up to 21 meters away. Katzschmann says the controller transmits at frequencies recommended by marine biologists that don’t disrupt the ecosystem.

Roboticist Robert Katzschmann with his AUV SoFi at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)

SoFi was designed to function as a mobile underwater observatory capturing real-time marine activity. The AUV will provide valuable feedback about how ocean life is adapting to rapid changes in the environment. Katzschmann is also hopeful his fish will allow marine biologists to observe marine life interacting with each other as well as with SoFi.

“Definitely the purpose is to influence, not just observe,” says Katzschmann, “We have a platform that can now be used to do those studies.”



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