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Soft Robotic Fish Moves Like the Real Thing


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MIT CSAIL director Daniela Rus, with a soft robotic fish developed by MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory.

Researchers say a newly developed robotic fish is the first self-contained autonomous robot capable of rapid body motion.

Credit: M. Scott Brauer

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers say they have created a robotic fish that is the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion.

Soft robots are an emerging area of interest in the robotics field, which MIT views as critical for further study. "As robots penetrate the physical world and start interacting with people more and more, it's much easier to make robots safe if their bodies are so wonderfully soft that there's no danger if they whack you," says Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Soft robots alter traditional robotic motion-planning systems, in which collision avoidance is a top priority, often resulting in inefficient motion as the robot seeks collision-free trajectories. With soft robots, Rus says collision is not a significant threat and can actually be beneficial if robots use these points of contact to reach a destination more quickly.

Another advantage of soft robots is their wide range of configurations, which hinged robots cannot provide. The robotic fish, created by MIT graduate student Andrew Marchese, has a long, tightly undulating channel on each side of its tail. The fish can change direction almost as quickly as a real fish, with the angle determined largely by how long the channel is inflated.

From MIT News
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