On the heels of a scientific report last month saying 63 percent of world fish stocks require rebuilding, scientists at MIT have unveiled a new robot fish that's cheap to make and ripe for mass production.
Actually, MIT engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado aren't aiming to replenish fisheries. They want their robot swimmers to be used for underwater monitoring of pipelines, sunken ships, and pollution. Since the fish are less than a foot long, they can maneuver into spaces that are too tight for most underwater autonomous vehicles (UAVs).
The fish--while not as pretty as these toxin-sniffing robot carp patrolling Spanish waters--are notable for their novel design. They have fewer than 10 parts, making them low-cost, and are housed in a continuous flexible polymer casing that prevents water damage.
Lacking different segments, the fish can swim more naturally, according to MIT (watch the video after the jump). A single motor in the middle initiates a wave that moves along the body and propels it forward. Real fish move in a similar fashion by contracting muscles on either side of their bodies.
Youcef-Toumi noted that the polymers allow for stiffness to be specified in different sections, adding that another application would be robotic prosthetic limbs.
The early versions of the fish, about 5 inches long, swam like bass and trout, with movement concentrated in the tail.… Read more