• Rahul Ganga


Updated: May 26, 2020

An augmented reality gaming expert based in Auckland, Melanie Langlotz has helped construct a full-grown robot dolphin that appears and swims just like a real bottlenose and can respond to human interaction.

picture: Geo Ar Games youtube

To stop the spread of coronavirus Chinese government halted the wildlife trade, the local zoos and aquariums asked Melanie Langlotz and partner Li Wang to help to design an aquarium in China with live dolphins and whales in its tanks. But they come up with the idea of using robotic or 'animatronic' dolphins instead.

Melanie Langlotz started talking to anyone in the related field and was told every time 'this is too hard', 'it's really difficult', 'it's a real piece of engineering artwork' because they would be in salt water, there are lots of electronics in there, let alone that they need to be on display for a long time.

Eventually two animatronics specialists from San Francisco, the former vice president and creative director for Disney Roger Holzberg and Walt Conti, who aided make the robotic animals for movies like Star Trek and Jurassic World agreed to assist.

The first 270kg prototype was ready to swim earlier this year. With their expertise the robot has a battery span of 10 hours and will function in saltwater for 10 years, but the lifelike appearance and smooth interaction with humans was the real success that attracted buyers lined up already in China including aquariums and theme parks owners.

"People just believed that it was real until they were told it was not. It was just absolutely incredible," Langlotz said.

The team currently seeing approaches to mass-produce the dolphins and add features, including a functional blowhole, and are already looking to imitate other ocean creatures like great white sharks and whales.

youTube: Geo Ar Games

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