Earth’s ocean is impossibly vast and difficult for humans to thoroughly explore because, well, they cannot breathe underwater. Short of giving people gills, researchers at MIT found a possible avenue to see more of what lurks in the ocean’s depths with less human interference, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Meet SoFi, a robotic fish made from affordable materials that can be remotely controlled to realistically and effectively swim against ocean currents and near real fish without much trouble. SoFi was originally outlined in detail in a Science Robotics study.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) March 22, 2018
Weighing in at 3.5 pounds, SoFi is special because it can withstand currents and roam around near fish without scaring them away. It is able to do that because it is built out of soft materials that allow it to realistically emulate the movements of an actual fish.
The most immediately striking aspect of SoFi is its rubber tail, which gives it the kind of undulation one would expect from a fish. Footage of SoFi swimming through water can be seen below.
SoFi is made out of materials that can be easily 3D printed, meaning they are not expensive to reproduce. With current technology, a human diver needs to be in the water with the mechanical fish to control it using what appears to be a Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller housed in a large shell. The pilot can be up to 50 feet away and still control the fish.
The fish has a maximum depth of 60 feet, meaning it will not be used to study what lies in the deepest parts of the ocean. The National Ocean Service claims that humans have only explored less than five percent of Earth’s ocean.