Snow way are robotic penguins actually a thing?! How flippin’ cool is that? (double whammy - sorry!)
So, it looks like a penguin, it swims like a penguin, but it can go on research missions, dive to 150 metres and help to explain the circular currents of water in the ocean, which are also known as eddies.
Researchers are using artificial intelligence to create robotic penguins as the latest development in marine sensory equipment. The 3D printed self-propelled machines are designed to mimic a penguin to measure oceanic eddies (ink-redible).
Eddies are small ocean currents that other research methods have struggled to capture, but thanks to incredible engineering and technology innovation, it looks like capturing them may no longer be a problem.
But why do we care about eddies? No offence…
Well eddies influence all the animals and plants in our oceans, as well as the Earth’s climate – so they’re actually pretty important!
Despite how vital they are, eddies are poorly understood because they are so small. Some are just 10 metres across, and they have an average lifespan of 12 hours, so you’ve gotta be quick, otherwise they’re gone - so it’s a tough job for those trying to observe them!
Other methods have been tried and tested, including a collection of 20 sensors attached to a rope that was towed behind a ship to measure key oceanographic variables in the eddies, such as temperature, pressure, oxygen etc. But the rope caught onto rocks, fishing nets and containers… and sent all that juicy data to the bottom of the sea (well, that took a turn…)
So, the researchers thought, ‘waddle we do now?’ (ha!)
Well, the only way to avoid these underwater hazards was to develop a device that didn’t need to be tied to a rope, plus penguins are more streamlined than anything designed in a lab, which makes them ideal for the high-speed measurements needed.
But eddies need to be measured in multiple locations at the same time, so the researchers are working to create more artificial penguins to act as a swarm, swimming in unison and communicating with each other.
Along with other teeny tiny sensors, such as GPS, the robo-penguins can relay data to each other as well as to research ships nearby. And they do this in the cutest way ever - via chirping signals similar to those of a dolphin!
And to make sure no data is ever sent to the bottom of the ocean again; these super-cool penguins have one final trick! If the electronics were to fail and the sensors went dark, the penguins would simply float to the surface. They’ve thought of everything!
These robo-penguins could make remote marine studies much more accessible to universities, research institutes and oceanographic firms, so everyone can benefit.
What’s next, robo-sharks?! Let us know what you think should be created next – head over to our social channels to share your thoughts…
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