MIT team develops Sofi Robofish to swim unnoticed under sea

Using its undulating tail and a unique ability to control its own buoyancy, SoFi can swim in a straight line, turn, or dive up or down.(MIT CSAIL) MIT CSAIL

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robofish named SoFi which is capable of moving underwater smoothly to take deep sea photos. The remote-controlled robofish can swim quietly through coral reefs, and schools of fishes without destabilizing the marine environment. The fish is equipped with a high-definition camera built to its nose, and it helps to capture photos and videos in crystal clear manner.

Robofish SoFi

SoFi is a highly sophisticated robot which has all the characteristics of a real fish. It can swim forward, move up and down and can change speed using its remote controller. The robofish weighs 1.6 kilograms, and it moves wiggling its tail side to side just like a real fish. The wiggling motion is created by pumping water with a small motor into two balloon-like chambers which is located in the tail of the robot. The study report is now published in the journal Science Robotics.

"I chose SoFi, pronounced like Sophie, as a name because it not only abbreviates the word Soft Fish, but it also reminded me of a girl I liked a lot and had a crush on in high school," said Robert Katzschmann, a robotics professor at the University of Massachusetts and the lead author of the study report.

The 16 centimeter long fish which is white in color has two side fins for maneuvering. Its tail is made up of silicone elastomer, a type of rubber.

According to the researchers, the fish can be controlled via the remote controller by the diver who can be even 21 meters away. The robofish is capable of reaching a sea depth of up to 18 meters, and it can navigate underwater for up to 40 minutes.

The researchers at the University of Massachusetts' Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) team have successfully tested SoFi in South Pacific coral reefs and coastal waters near Taveuni.

Exploring sea without harming the environment

The autonomous underwater vehicles which are now popularly used are known for creating negative impact on the marine environment. Most of these underwater vehicles are tethered to boats and are powered with propellers which will disrupt the stability of the environment. However, SoFi is capable of swimming alongside fishes and other marine creatures without disrupting the stability of ocean.