April 01, 2013, 11:10 AM — This giant jellyfish won't sting you--unless, perhaps, you're trying to attack the United States. Researchers at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering have unveiled an autonomous robot jellyfish that's the size of an average full-grown human and could soon be lurking in the oceans, surveying the environment and scoping out military threats.
The robot, named Cyro (Cy is from the Latin name for the genus of stringy jellyfish, Cyanea, and ro is from robot), weighs in at 170 pounds and is 5 feet, 7 inches in length. Its jellyfish-like dome is made from the same silicone used to create movie special effects masks.
Cyro gets around with the help of eight metal arms that mimic the same floating movement we see in real jellyfish. "Our goal with this robot is to copy the natural jellyfish," says doctoral student Alex Villanueva, one of the students developing Cyro.
Why build a robot jellyfish instead of a robot shark or fish? It's all about using as little energy as possible to move the robot around the water so it can stay at sea for as long as possible without losing power. Since jellyfish can float easily through the oceans without using much energy, it was an ideal creature on which to model an power-saving robot.
Cyro is part of a $5 million project funded by the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research to build robots that can study aquatic life and environmental changes in our oceans, and perform military surveillance.
Virginia Tech showed off a smaller jellyfish robot in 2012 called RoboJelly, which was no bigger than a human hand. Researchers went bigger with Cyro so that it can spend several months in the oceans without needing to recharge.