Tron: Legacy Consultant Creates Robotic Fish That Can Move in Any Direction (Video)


Image via Vimeo video

And you thought the robo-fish news had died down...

A team of researchers, led by Malcolm MacIver, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has come up with a robotic fish based off of a "weakly electric fish" -- specifically the black ghost knifefish -- that uses a weak electric force-field around its body to sense prey and danger. The new robot could be a breakthrough for more nimble underwater vehicles, including those that could monitor coral reefs. Check out a video of the fish in action after the jump.

The Incredible Robot Fish from Northwestern News on Vimeo.

Because the black ghost knifefish can navigate dense river habitat at night, its movements and method of detecting prey is ideal for the researchers to mimic.

MacIver has a very interesting background, according to Physorg -- not only is he a robotics expert, but was also a scientific consultant for "Tron: Legacy" and is science advisor for TV series "Caprica."

After observing the knifefish moving vertically as well as horizontally -- a new move to the researchers -- Maclver was interested in looking more into how it could be mimicked for studying the way a brain sends messages to muscle tissue.

"It's interesting because you're getting force coming off the animal in a completely unexpected direction that allows it to do acrobatics that, given its lifestyle of hunting and maneuvering among tree roots, makes a huge amount of sense," MacIver said.

The robot they've created has a similar electrosensory system, and they're hoping they can utilize what they've learned from watching the knifefish into a robot that can help monitor coral reefs or perform other underwater tasks that need nimble movements.

Their research is published in Interface.

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Tags: Animals | Concepts & Prototypes | Electronics | Fishing | Oceans

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