It may look like a fish and swim like one too, but it’s not a fish at all. At least a real one. SoFi is actually a robotic fish which the researchers at MIT recently developed. It has a soft body thanks to which it can mimic almost exactly the movements in the water of a real fish. This is the first such robots to deal with the pressure and currents of a real ocean for a long period of time. In a study, which the journal Science Robotics recently published, the authors are explaining that SoFi can navigate a coral reef near Fiji in 3D. This means that it can swim up, down, left, right and forward.
A diver is controlling the robotic fish through something that looks strikingly similar with a Nintendo controller. According to the same study, it seems that SoFi can handle depths of about 60 feet. Moreover, it can swim alongside other real fish without triggering any scared reactions from them. According to Daniela Rus, the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT and leader of the project, the idea is for SoFi to one day help people uncover more mysteries of the underwater world.
SoFi, the special robotic fish
In terms of its size, SoFi is relatively small, measuring only one foot and a half in length. The fish-like motion can happen thanks to a hydraulic pump that moves the water in its rubber tail from side to side. Inside its head there is a fisheye lens and a Linux PC. It works thanks to a small battery and at the moment, it can swim for up to 40 minutes before it needs recharging.
Because most of its parts are 3D-printed, So-Fi becomes a relatively cheap and easy to replicate robot. Rus said that its scale can be modified. However, a bigger SoFi would struggle to get in and out of water, while a smaller one might have trouble with the currents.
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