This Hyper-Realistic Robotic Dolphin Could Change Aquariums Forever

When it was first founded in 1991 by Walt Conti, Edge Innovations was Hollywood’s go-to animatronic tech designer. From the friendly orca whale in Free Willy to the elusive South American serpent in Anaconda, Edge has no shortage of appearances on the silver screen. But as the film industry moved away from animatronics, Edge Innovations had to look elsewhere to see its creations come to life.

With zoos and other captive animal environments falling out of favor, such applications have proven a natural fit for the San Francisco-based engineering specialist. For though the dolphin pictured here was first developed in the 1990s, it’s been brought out of retirement for a 21st-century reboot. Coming in at 8.5′ long and weighing 550lbs, this creation makes for quite the hyperrealistic look-a-like. Beneath its medical-grade silicone skin, it features a controller equipped with artificial intelligence in order to give it impressively dolphin-like behavior. For instance, it’ll maintain its own buoyancy, interact with guests, and even surface four times a minute in order to “breathe.” What’s more, it comes with two operating modes: an “exhibition” where it’s left up to its own devices and an “education” where it can be controlled via a joystick.

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