Hyperrealistic robot dolphins could replace the captive ones at marine parks

Animatronic dolphins could replace their real-life counterparts in shows. 

Edge Innovations is a design, development and product studio that has worked with creative minds like James Cameron, Steve Wynn and Frank Gehry. Now, Edge is leading the way in creating hyperrealistic robotic dolphins. The purpose is to free captive marine mammals who are often used for entertainment, educational and business purposes. 

“As captive marine mammal shows have fallen from favor,” the Edge team said in a statement. “The catching, transporting and breeding of marine animals has become more restricted. The marine park industry as a viable business has become more challenging. Yet the audience appetite for this type of entertainment and education has remained constant.” 

Theme parks like SeaWorld and other aquatic attractions make animal rights activists uneasy. The issue is these events raise ethical concerns about the animals but can also educate the public. With Edge’s robots, those issues go away. 

The 595-pound robot, as demonstrated in a video demo, looks like the real thing. Although it is remotely operated by a human and only has about 10 hours of battery life, it can survive in saltwater for up to a decade. The animatronic mammal is engineered to simulate dolphin-like movements and even feels like one too. It has realistic skeletal and muscle structures beneath its synthetic skin and nearly identical weight distribution to the real thing. 

Edge Innovations is testing the dolphins at a Chinese aquarium, where government interventions have thwarted wildlife trade during the pandemic. 

While the robot dolphins may not be autonomous yet, that is the hope of future models.

If you enjoyed this story, you might want to read about penguins visiting other animals during rare aquarium ‘field trip’.

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