The field of soft robotics is booming. Using pliable, nature-inspired materials, like silicone, and nature-inspired designs to make robots is becoming more commonplace in research and application. In 2018 researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) designed Robofish,  a biomimicry robot that replicates the physiology and movement of a small ocean fish. Robofish is remotely operated via a modified Nintendo controller that connects with a modified acoustic communications module, which allows the fish to be navigated in three dimensions, mimicking the way a real fish would navigate. Because Robofish is wirelessly controlled, researchers do not need to use a tether to keep it from drifting off course. The effect that wireless control has, along with its fish-shaped body and undulating tail, is a monitoring device that can go unnoticed by fish, causing minimal disturbance that might influence the visual data collected by Robofish. Furthermore, because it is relatively small and untethered, it can move among fishes and in more dense ocean floor environments that would be a barrier to a clunker robot. The cameras mounted on the “eyes” of the Robofish record video from the fish’s point of view, and their intimacy with other fish provide a new and less invasive way to monitor ocean wildlife. Preliminary tests with the Robofish in Pacific coral reefs showed almost no disturbance from the presence of the Robofish. In the future, the Robofish could be applied to monitoring more “shy” creatures, like the Ghost Shark, and dense coral reefs. The robofish is still used at smaller scales, but like with the production of most artificial life, the designers should keep in mind the durability of the materials and the amount of waste created from larger-scale production.

Greene, Tristan. “MIT’s new robot fish is eerily realistic.” 


Artificial Life, Biodiversity, Ecological Monitoring, Monitoring, Visual Technologies