Designing a light, soft robot that is both self-contained and high-performance remains a challenge. Onboard computers are heavy, so engineers are often forced to strike a less-than-ideal balance between dexterity and autonomy: They can weigh down their robots with sophisticated hardware, tether their experiments to external computers and lose autonomy, or settle for lighter, inferior onboard tech.
Soft robotic fish provide one biomimetic solution. In nature, fish store their heavy machinery—a skull and a brain—in their heads, while the rest of their bodies are light and bendable. Borrowing from nature's model aquatic organisms, Marphese copied fish musculature to design a smart, but still soft, mechanical fish.