Lifelike robotic creatures could be the future of theme parks and aquariums

Going to the aquarium may be a great way to learn about sea creatures, but keeping animals in captivity for such purposes usually comes hand in hand with a number of ethical problems.

US engineering firm Edge Innovations wants to change that by creating animatronic dolphins that look almost identical to those that jump through hoops and perform acrobatics at theme parks.

Known for creating the aquatic creatures used in Hollywood blockbusters “Free Willy,” “Deep Blue Sea” and “Anaconda,” Edge has designed a dolphin that swims and is able to interact with humans much like its living counterparts. The robotic creature weighs 550 pounds, is 8.5 feet long and its skin is made from medical-grade silicone.

“There are like 3,000 dolphins currently in captivity being used to generate several billions of dollars just for dolphin experiences. And so there’s obviously an appetite to love and learn about dolphins. And so we want to use that appetite and offer kind of different ways to fall in love with the dolphin,” said Edge Innovations founder and CEO Walt Conti.

The company hopes that life-like animatronics used in Hollywood movies could one day entertain crowds at theme parks, instead of having wild animals taken away from their natural habitat. According to the company’s vision, people could swim alongside robotic great white sharks or even reptiles that filled Jurassic-era seas millions of years ago.

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