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As far-fetched and futuristic as it might sound, researchers are working on turning jellyfish into ocean-exploring robots.

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[♪ INTRO].

People often like to point out that 95% of the ocean is unexplored, and who knows what is lurking in those vast, unseen waters. But there are animals that know: jellyfish.

They're found throughout the ocean, from the deepest depths to the almost-empty expanse of the open seas. If only we could travel along with them and see our underwater world the way they do. Well, maybe we can.

As far-fetched and futuristic as it might sound, researchers are working on turning jellies into ocean-exploring robots. The goal is to combine a jellyfish with an electronic prosthetic to create a biohybrid robot, a jellybot, if you will. The animals' gooey bodies and low energy requirements make them perfect candidates for this kind of cyborg tech.

And scientists have come a long way already with the design. Researchers have anchored teeny electronic prosthetics into the bells of moon jellies. These send out regular electronic pulses to stimulate the jelly's muscles.

Now, the devices might look pretty intrusive. But, it's important to remember that ignorance is bliss, and jellies are pretty blissful creatures. They lack a brain, a true central nervous system, and the pain receptors that would make this kind of experiment uncomfortable for other animals.

Plus, moon jellies produce mucus when stressed, and the researchers didn't see any of that during testing. So the animals didn't seem to be upset. What they did see were supercharged jellies.

When the devices were turned on, the animals swam almost three times faster. And that speed increase was from mere 10 milliwatts of external power, since all the hard work is done by the jellies' muscles, and the energy to move those comes from the prey they eat. So, at the end of the day, this first model used less power per mass than any other aquatic robot currently available, up to a 1000 times less.

Jellybots have another advantage over traditional robots, too: they heal. At least, the jellyfish parts do. So if one were to get damaged somehow, there's at least a chance it could fix itself.

Still, jellybots aren't quite ready for prime time, right now, the researchers can't actually steer them. Though, they're working on that. And future plans will also include modifications that will allow us to collect all sorts of information from them, creating a fleet of inexpensive, autonomous underwater vehicles.

Attaching data loggers to larger marine animals has already helped researchers learn all sorts of things about the ocean. So, one could envision a future where thousands or millions of jellybots are deployed in droves to track things like water temperature, salinity and pH, data which can tell researchers a lot about the ocean's health. And not only would these biohybrid robots further expand monitoring, they would do so fairly inexpensively, at least, when compared to the underwater vehicles around today.

Though, they might need to program some kind of defense system too. After all, you would not want all your jellybots to end up monitoring the inside of leatherback sea turtles instead of the ocean! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow!

If you liked learning about these weird robots, you probably will love our weekly podcast,. SciShow Tangents. It's produced by Complexly and WNYC Studios and it's made by the same people who bring you SciShow!

Well, some of the people, like me. We did a whole episode on robots that I think you will enjoy! You can find it by clicking the link in the description or searching for SciShow Tangents on the podcast platform you prefer most. [♪ OUTRO].