Scientists from Stanford University and California Institute of Technology, Nicole Xu and John Dabiri, have demonstrated first results in their ongoing research on artificial control on animal locomotion aimed at oceanographic discoveries.

Ocean attracts various scientists, for its waters are full of mysteries. At the same time, better knowledge is believed to be able to enhance scientific understanding of weather patterns, or climate change, to begin with. For example, NASA-funded expedition are already testing autonomous robots in the hazard environment of underwater volcano Kolumbo.

But, according to Xu and Dabiri, cyborg jellyfish, or other controllable organisms, would have several advantages over marine robots, starting with their ability to live, powering themselves by food.

In the article “Low-power microelectronics embedded in live jellyfish enhance propulsion” published in Science Advances on January 29, scientists reported that they have successfully built a “swim controller” that enhances the speed of moon jellyfish nearly three times their normal speed.

In future, researchers plan to add other features to their invention, so the animal will be able to turn upon command, or even record oceanographic data collected with sensors.

From ethical perspective, researchers have reported no records of stress for the animals. Therefore, they hope that one day such systems would allow to gather critical knowledge about ocean, as well as improve soft robotics:

“Artificial control of animal locomotion has the potential to simultaneously address longstanding challenges to actuation, control, and power requirements in soft robotics”

Robotics and biology becomes closer and closer. As Future Time previously reported, scientists from the University of Vermont and Tufts University have created the first ever “living robot” from frog cells.

Image Credit: Rebecca Konte Caltech via Scientific American

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