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Festo’s cuttlefish-inspired robot looks like it escaped an alien aquarium

Festo – BionicFinWave (English/Deutsch)

In today’s fast-moving world, there are three constants: Death, taxes, and that the nature-inspired robots built by German automation company Festo fill us with a geeky sense of joy. Having previously created everything from bat robots to a creepy OctopusGripper straight from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft, Festo is now back with its latest creation — and, boy, is it awesomely weird!

The creation in question is called BionicFinWave. While that totally sounds like it should be the name of a Japanese mecha anime series, in fact it’s an unusual looking fish-inspired underwater robot, designed to replicate the type of undulating long fin-aided locomotion most commonly seen in cuttlefish. The wave-shaped movement of these fins is used to generate forward, upward, downward, and even backward motion in the fishbot. Changing between different movements can be achieved by altering the wave patterns in the fins. This results in surprisingly efficient movement — with far less churning up of the water than is the case with some alternate forms of underwater propulsion.


In terms of components, the fish uses a primarily 3D-printed body with silicone fins and servo motors to provide its movement. It also has batteries, a pressure and ultrasound sensor for gathering information about its surroundings, and the technology to transmit this data to the outside world. It is able to carry out its movement without any tethers or cords leading up to the surface.

Most of Festo’s robots are created to be essentially fancy demos, akin to concept cars or the world’s fanciest business cards. While there’s no word on whether BionicFinWave is any different, the company does note that it could have real-world applications. These might include tasks like underwater inspections or data collection. Fields which might require such a robot include the water, sewage, and other process industries. It’s conceivable that the unusual propulsion system could also lend itself to crafts like future submarines.

Still, even if this remains no more than a fancy showcase of what Festo is able to put together in its labs, the fact that it exists at all makes us pretty happy. And excited to see what the company has up its sleeves next.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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