RoboDolphins Could Be Used To Create Animal-Friendly Animatronic Aquariums


RoboDolphins Could Be Used To Create Animal-Friendly Animatronic AquariumsEdge Innovations

Robotic dolphins are going to be introduced into three aquariums in China, and their inventor believes that the move could positively impact the species.

As film studios moved from practical effects to digital, a number of people looked at how to use their skills from the practical world in new ways. Roger Holzberg navigated this journey with Edge Innovations in the late ’90s, and helped develop an animatronic dolphin for a SeaWorld-style show. The practical effects developer was then asked to use his robotic dolphin skills 20 years later in China.


When Holzberg showcased his original mechanical dolphin, which required two people to man the controls, a viewer reportedly called the police as they believed that a real-life dolphin had been wired up to respond to commands. It was this realism that led to a Chinese aquarium chain asking Holzberg to recreate the project, but using the benefits of contemporary technology.

Holzberg explained that he was originally unsure until his wife contextualised the prospect:

I had this deep conversation with my wife, asking what it would mean if we built animatronic versions of three different species for three large aquariums in China. My wife said: ‘Well, you’ll have kept perhaps 100 large animals from being taken out of the wild and put in an aquarium. That means you’ve changed the history of those species.’

dolphin lessonsEdge Innovations

After this discussion, Holzberg committed to the project, but it wasn’t without its challenges. The silicone skin looks incredibly realistic, yet the robot itself weighs 550lbs and is 8.5 foot long. With this in mind, making this robot move and operate like a dolphin while staying buoyant has been quite a difficult process that required artificial intelligence. Nonetheless, the result is an incredibly realistic robot that has unique functions and purposes.

The dolphin can be controlled remotely and also has an exhibition mode, in which it inspects the surrounding area as a dolphin would. The joystick-based remote control mode allows for up-close and interactive education.

The premiere of the robodolphins has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is hoped that it will appear in the three aquariums after a vaccine for the virus is found. In the meantime, the robot dolphins are available to buy for $3-5 million.


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Topics: Technology, China, Now, Robot, Robotics, Tech

Daniel Richardson
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