In Brief

£20m robotic dolphin could replace captive animals

Chinese ban on exotic creatures could see robot revolution

Robotic dolphins could replace live ones in Chinese aquariums after extensive bans on the wildlife trade in the country.

San Francisco tech company Edge Innovations has created an animatronic dolphin that can last over a decade in salt water without any maintenance.

“Judging from footage of it in a pool, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and a real one,” says Metro

And a test audience had been unable to guess the dolphin was not real, Melanie Langlotz, one of the entrepreneurs behind the project, told The Guardian.

The machine can swim for up to 10 hours on a single charge of its battery, and is operated via remote control.

Not only does the replica look and move like a real dolphin, it feels like one too. It has a realistic skeletal and muscular structure underneath its outer skin, and accurate weight distribution that helps make its swimming motion look like the robot is actually alive, says Gizmodo.

The dolphin is being developed after China introduced strict new rules on the buying and selling of exotic animals in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But even after the pandemic, animal rights activists say that robotic dolphins should remain in place of live creatures.

Elisa Allen, UK director for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement she hoped robotic dolphins “will replace real ones in marine parks worldwide”, adding that “in 2020, cutting-edge technology allows us to experience nature without harming it”.

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