MIT have been tinkering with their soft robotic fish for sometime – for example here’s an article from 2014 on the ‘bot. So it’s cool to see CSAIL recently moving ahead with the initiative, doing some demo dives at the Rainbow Reef in Fiji (even the Wall Street Journal picked up the story, too):
This month scientists published rare footage of one of the Arctic’s most elusive sharks. The findings demonstrate that, even with many technological advances in recent years, it remains a challenging task to document marine life up close.
But MIT computer scientists believe they have a possible solution: using robots.
In a paper out today, a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) unveiled “SoFi,” a soft robotic fish that can independently swim alongside real fish in the ocean.
During test dives in the Rainbow Reef in Fiji, SoFi swam at depths of more than 50 feet for up to 40 minutes at once, nimbly handling currents and taking high-resolution photos and videos using (what else?) 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. The team also used a waterproofed Super Nintendo controller and developed a custom acoustic communications system that enabled them to change SoFi’s speed and have it make specific moves and turns.
And if the soft robot itself wasn’t enough, check out the custom waterproof SNES controller they designed to steer the ‘bot: