'Realistic' robot fish will give closer look to aquatic life, scientists say

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Courtesy: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

There is a robotic fish that is able to move around like the real ones.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology unleashed the underwater robot into the sea and scientists believe it can help understand and save the world’s oceans. Researchers said the soft robotic fish, called "SoFi," can blend in and swim by schools of fish and other marine creatures quietly without sending them fleeing. The device is less intrusive and more likely to get close enough to aquatic life by acting as naturally as possible.

Existing autonomous underwater vehicles are generally bulky and powered by propellors that disrupt the natural environment, but scientists said SoFi can move up and down on its own and adjusts its buoyancy with a mechanism that pumps water in and out of its tail.

The back half of the fish is made of silicone rubber and flexible plastic. There are several components that are 3D-printed, including the head, which holds all the electronics. The gadget uses fisheye lenses to capture high-resolution photos and video with a camera built into its nose. A small amount of baby oil is in its head to reduce the chance of water leaking into the machinery. They said changes in pressure during dives does not impact the fluid. 

During tests in the South Pacific Ocean and coastal waters off of Fiji, the study suggests that the robot did not seem to impact the activity of real fish. 

The next steps are to work on several improvements for SoFi, such as increasing the fish’s speed by improving the pump system and tweaking the design of its body and tail.