A robotic dolphin that looks much like those that jump through hoops and perform acrobatics at theme parks, replace captive animals was unveiled by a U.S. engineering company in California.
Edge Innovations, designed the dolphin for an educational pilot program.
“When I first saw the dolphin, I thought it could be real,” said a woman who swam with the remote-controlled creature.
It hopes that life-like animatronics used in Hollywood movies could one day entertain crowds at theme parks, instead of wild animals held in captivity. Swimmers could dive with robotic great white sharks or even reptiles that filled Jurassic-era seas millions of years ago.
“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,” said Edge Innovations founder and CEO Walt Conti.
“And so we want to use that appetite and offer kind of different ways to fall in love with the dolphin.”
Animatronics may bring back audiences turned off by parks using live animals, said Conti.
Some 20 European countries have already banned or limited the presence of wild animals in circuses.
At Edge’s Hayward, California headquarters, its 550-pound and 8-and-a-half-foot animatronic dolphin with skin made from medical-grade silicone headlined a program for schools in partnership with TeachKind, part of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).