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Watch the MIT MER-BOT – half droid, half soft 'fish' – swim by itself

Underwater unit touted as safer, more flexible

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Video Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have constructed a fish-like robot which they say will be more durable and safe for everyday use.

Based on "soft" robotics technologies, the unit combines a computational system and power supply with a movement system based on a compressed gas pump and a series of tubes running through the interrior of the soft portion of the robot's body.

The robot, which swims like a fish underwater, is capable of autonomous movement. In particular, it is able to process and execute an "escape" maneuver in which the unit can quickly contort its body and propel itself in another direction out of harm's way.

Soft-bodied robot fish in action

Such a maneuver, say researchers, showcases a number of advantages in soft robotics, including the ability for a robot to function with and around humans with less risk of injury from a collision. Additionally, the ability to process and execute the maneuver suggests that researchers will be able to further develop soft robots which are able to function autonomously.

Soft robotics, in general, will look to develop systems that are able to change their physical properties and morph their shapes. Designed to be more flexible and durable than traditional rigidly-built robot systems, the soft units rely on air, fluids, and granular materials to form the body

According to MIT News, the fish system could also have a future as a research tool. Should the unit be able to improve its ability to function autonomously, the robots could be embedded with schools of fish to study marine biology and behaviors. ®

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