Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have unveiled a robotic starfish that will study the structure of the ocean’s deep layers. It will not interfere with fish and other aquatic life.
The researchers explained that documenting life in the ocean is a very difficult and expensive process. Primarily, the equipment for this must be durable, but its design should not disturb marine life, sensitive to human movements.
As a possible solution, scientists have developed a new marine robot. The team used their system to create a soft robotic starfish made from silicone foam; the device can be moved using one low-power motor. The star is propelled by tendons on the limbs, which are connected to a servo.
The researchers chose the star’s design because of the simplicity and elegance of the movement. However, in the future, they want to create the same robots with a different body structure – which are inspired by the body of sea turtles, rays, sharks. These will include joints, fins, and flippers.
Scientists first built a training model that performs the initial simulation and design of the robot’s control mechanisms, then the prototype itself was quickly built. Researchers later experimented with the robot to gain more data to improve and optimize its design. As a result, the robot usually only needs to be reworked once.
“When modeling a robot, we have to make changes that, by definition, create a gap between simulation and reality,” the scientists noted. “Our future work is aimed at narrowing this gap between reality, with a mixed cycle of simulation and real-life experiments, which, as it seemed to us, are quite effective.”