If the idea of tiny robots that swim like fish just sounds too futuristic to be true, Read on. Scientists Kevin Lynch, Todd Murphey, and Michael Peshkin from Northwestern University, Illinois along with HDT Robotics, have succeeded in a within a brand new evolution of technology. They’ve created models of robotic fish! Their robots would likely repair underwater vehicles, which would help scientists study coral reefs. They may even be able to make repairs to beat-up oil rigs at the bottom of the sea, or even swim through sunken ships scanning areas that scientists have not yet been able to get to.
The electric black ghost knife fish (seen above) was the inspiration behind the team’s design; this species is found in the Amazon basin. They looked at the way in which the knife fish moves about in the water, and were inspired by its ability to sense objects near it without any visual capabilities.
Normally these fish swim in quite murky waters, but thanks to their ability to detect everything around them through a 3-D geometric like space, this is not a problem. The unique weak electric field surrounding them is what gives the fish their super sense power.
Located at the underside of the knifefish’s body is a ribbon-style fin that enables it to swim in all directions.
On February 15, the team made a presentation of their half-dozen robot fish which were showcased during a seminar Sunday, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) yearly meeting in Chicago. What makes underwater work really tricky is the fact that the current models of underwater vehicles are way too big and clunky, moving from site to site in way too small and delicate areas of the ocean. As the evolution of robots and new technologies continues to advance, this all may soon change.
Interestingly, what motivated the men to build such robots was to see how the knife fish relays information from the nervous system to its body. MacIver says this “should improve underwater vehicles.” In the future.
The notoriously hard-to-breed knife fish is timid and also nocturnal, yet aggressive towards other fish so it is not recommended to house them in small aquariums with the exception of one specific breed. It kills and feeds on its prey by stunning them with an electric discharge.
The AAAS is held from February 13 to the 17 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. The fish robots were seen during a press conference on February 15 at one o’clock. All the leaders in the field of bio-robots were in attendance during the symposium.
The way animals move their bodies, is something that has been adjusted over and over again through a long history of evolution. The planet’s many species have developed adaptive, agile and often very powerful means of movement through water, land and air. In a brief description about the upcoming presentation from the AAAS website, scientists call these new fish robots “biologically autonomous” and through engineering, “the control systems of the future will promise to serve mankind in previously unimagined ways.” The AAAS is the world’s largest scientific society and is responsible for publishing articles to The Journal of Science.
By Katie Sevigny