marisa morby

Design & Nature Reimagined: Robots in the water

I'm always fascinated by the ocean. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it; the ocean is basically an alien planet with so many amazing ecosystems and creatures we don't understand or haven't discovered. It's pretty amazing to see some of the innovations coming out right now to explore the ocean. We of course have to be careful about how we go about this exploration because ocean ecosystems are quite delicate and since we don't understand them we don't want to cause harm. But today I'm going to share with you some cool ocean tech that can hopefully help us conserve or clean different parts of our oceans. Conservation is a huge part of combatting climate change, because once something is damaged or lost it takes many, many decades or generations to build itself back up again. And refusing to clean up our plastic mess, in addition to refusing to stop using plastic, leads to especially harmful pollution in our water.

Robot jellyfish help protect coral reefs

The jellyfish is one of the most efficient animal on the planet; meaning that it uses the least amount of energy for the largest length of movement. "This increased efficiency, combined with the additional benefits of the robot's soft, flexible exterior would make it ideal for operating near sensitive environments such as coral reefs ..."

Studying coral reefs will help us understand more about their lifecycle and how we can help or regrow them when they're in distress. And since coral reefs are such an integral part of a healthy ecosystem, being able to learn more about their health and how we can help them is key to saving ourselves as well.

I particularly like the idea of this robot jellyfish, because it rethinks what a robot needs to be. Instead of a hard outer shell, this is a robot entirely inspired by, and made to, mimic its natural counterpart. I think it's a thoughtful and seamless way to create robotics that rethinks what a robot "should" be.

Cleaning up our mess in the oceans

Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. We will never be able to get it all, and though I believe an organism (like bacteria) that eats and digests plastics will evolve within the next 500 years, we really don't have that kind of time to clean up the mess we've made. That's where WasteShark comes in. WasteShark is basically a Roomba for the water. It scoots (floats, really) along the top of the water near ports, collecting the trash that's on the surface. And while we have to be careful of causing adverse impacts by disturbing microorganisms, I do like that they are looking in to solutions to clean up at least some of the plastic that enters our water system.

That's all I've got today! Here's a really cool picture of a clear jellyfish that actually does look like something you'd find on an alien planet. Very cool!

A clear comb jelly floats in dark water. The center of the jelly has a rainbow iridescent column to it.

Aquatic Comb Jelly. Picture from M. Ieidyi, featured in National Institute of Health: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-study-aquatic-comb-jelly-floats-into-new-evolutionary-position