The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has unveiled a robot fish that it claims can change direction almost as fast as the real thing.
The fish — or “autonomous soft robot” as it’s described by MIT — can perform escape manoeuvres through rapid convulsions of its body, powered by carbon dioxide released from a canister in its abdomen.
Graduate student Andrew Marchese built the fish using 3D printing technology to create a mould, which was then used to cast the fish’s body from silicone rubber. The fish can execute between 20 or 30 manoeuvres before running out of gas.
“The fish was designed to explore performance capabilities, not long-term operation,” said Marchese in MIT’s announcement of the research. “Next steps for future research are taking that system and building something that’s compromised on performance a little bit but increases longevity.” That will involve switching carbon dioxide for a pumped-water system that could keep the fish swimming for around 30 minutes of a time. Such a device could eventually be used to swim alongside schools of real fish to study their behaviour in the wild.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014