The soft robot fish Sofi could provide researchers with new opportunities to reveal some of the ocean’s many mysteries.

The robotic fish Sofi has been developed by researchers at CSAIL, MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence lab, to explore marine life and disturb it as little as possible. The results of Sofi’s test run are good.

The soft robot fish has managed to swim straight, turn and dive up and down, to 18 feet deep, and has operated for up to 40 minutes. It seems to not disturbed real fish, seemingly blending with its surroundings at all times.

Besides its physical design, the robot communicates differently. Since underwater vehicles are typically tethered to a boat because radio waves don’t do well in water. What SoFi’s inventors have opted for instead is sound.

“Radio frequency communication underwater just works for a few centimeters,”

“Acoustic signals in water can travel for much longer and with much less energy consumption.”

– MIT CSAIL roboticist Robert Katzschmann, lead author of the paper.

In a paper in Science Robotics, the MIT researchers detail the evolution of the world’s strangest fish, and describe how it could be a potentially powerful tool for scientists to study ocean life.