Scientists are hopeful that robot dolphins could usher in a new age of freedom for thousands of real dolphins in captivity.
It looks like a high-tech solution may finally end animal captivity's cruelty taking place in marine parks and aquariums around the world for good by replacing real dolphins with robots. Edge Innovations, a U.S.-based animatronics company, has designed a groundbreaking mammal that mimics real-life dolphins' playful behavior, and the company is hoping that it could soon be replacing the animals currently used in Hollywood films, aquariums, and theme parks. Right now, the robot can swim in water, nod, and interact with humans. Developers also claim the robotic creature is almost identical to the real-life cetacean and could one day co-exist with robot representations of predators such as great white sharks or even huge reptiles that once ruled the Jurassic-era oceans millions of years ago.
However, the biggest difference right now is that despite the $26 million price tag, this robotic dolphin represents a real cruelty-free alternative to the practice of capture, confinement, and exploration of live animals for entertainment purposes in theme parks and aquatic zoos. Also, over the long-run, they could prove to be a cheaper alternative as well. These robots weigh about 550 pounds and features medical-grade silicone skin. Researchers believe this technology could one day put an end to the practice of capturing, breeding, and forcibly training live animals.
“It’s surprising there are 3,000 dolphins currently in captivity to generate several billion dollars just for dolphin experiences,” Edge Industry CEO and founder Walt Conti told Reuters.
“There’s obviously an appetite to love and learn about dolphins and so we want to use that appetite and offer different ways to fall in love with the dolphin.”
Over recent years, animal rights activists, along with casual animal lovers alike, have waged a successful boycott against marine parks that exploit dolphins and other intelligent, self-aware animals, subjecting them to inhumane acts for the sake of amusement and profit.
Edge Industry has worked closely with marine biologists to perfect the dolphin physiology replication and get tall of their natural behaviors down pat.
“Everyone wants to know if using an animatronic dolphin is different to using a real dolphin. The truth is in many ways they’re the same,” Holzberg said.
“If you want to design a show that uses real dolphins you have to capture real dolphins, train them and get them to do that show,” he continued. “With creating robots you have to do exactly the same thing. The difference is you don’t have to have breeding programs, worry about safety with human beings.”
Let's hope this noble endeavor becomes a reality sooner rather than later. Perhaps one day, we will see completely robotic zoos offering folks a look at a much wider variety of wildlife than ever before. For more on this remarkable story, you can also watch a video below.