Animatronic Fish




About: See some of my work here and as always accepting orders for custom design and fabrication as featured on Discovery Channel, Wired Magazine, Gizmodo, Engadget, Geekologie, PCWorld, CNet and many more - Pinter...

This is sadly another mere photo-instructable. This was built before I discovered instructables, and before I started taking pictures of steps along the way. My buddy Paul was always telling me to document my builds, pesky hindsight!

Video to be posted soon

Oh look-ee videos posted!

This is my animatronic fish - Eoz 7 from the V'Ger project, that I built for the local museum here in Kitimat, BC. They were having a contest to submit any art piece that was fish related. The look on there face was priceless when we wheeled this monstrosity in. And, to my shock, it landed First Prize for the "Peoples Choice Award". The story behind the fish, is that it is actually from the future, well the futures past anyway, still our future though.... pesky time-talk-paradox! The story goes that this fish was an experiment gone awry. During its deployment with its kin one night, a flash flood wipes out all the scientists and other robo-fish except this one. Believed loss, the search for it was abandoned. Little did anyone know, it was busy circumnavigating the globe several times before returning to the place of its origins. Here it was found being batted about the shore by a hungry grizzly. Now put on display for the people of 2036AD.

Constructed of discarded pieces from both the local scrap yard, and the metal dump at my work. The fish itself is constructed from industrial electrical panels left over from a building that caught on fire at work. The metal stand was constructed from stainless steel pressure pipe from the steam plant scrap pile. Movement was provided from a power window motor driven by a computer power supply. It drove a homemade cam shaft similar to the one I used in my animatronic hand. Aircraft cable was strung through the body making it flex and move similar to snake. Additionally the fins were hinged with bearings and were tied into the the main cables for awesome wriggling fishy action. The mouth opens via a mini camshaft driven off a geared motor from a child's lamp. I had to replace the original fitting for the mouth as the geared motor provided so much torque it could easily bite off a childrens finger. I replaced the metal piece with a piece of silicone hosing to provide the same movement but make it safe to be in touching distance of children. The eye was the only purchased piece, via eBay. 99 cents with free shipping, SCORE!!! it came in the form of a back-up camera equipped with night vision. Anyone remember when low light equipped cams were seeing through people clothes and had to be pulled from the market? Yup, we were testing it out in the living room with some friends over, when my 12 year old daughter walks into the room wearing only panties... at least on the screen she was. Otherwise she was wearing flannel pajamas, those infra-red led's are pretty strong! Strung through out the fish are various LED's, el-wire and other funky bits just for fun. A plexi-glass chamber that was lit with ultra violet led's had olive oil mixed with phosphates inside. A aquarium air pump bubbled the solution inside. This was to simulate the robo-fishes organic-cyborg brain. Quirky rounded plexi-glass circuits were in the middle and were edge lit like fiber-optics, IE its nervous system. The rear had mini co2 canisters to simulate the gas exchange. All of this was mounted into a custom display built by my friend Paul O'Regan. The TV, came from value village for 5$, oops I did spend more money there.

Full write up of the display is copy pasted below. Its quite the read though

*Some time in the distant future…*

We, the people of New Canada are pleased to present this exciting piece of our history,
“The Eoz 7”

In 2043 AD, the signing of the since banned “Freedom of Information Act” has brought to light the V’Ger project. Although we have retrieved vast information regarding the V’Ger projects history, its final evolution has remained a mystery. The following is a summary excerpt from one such file:

“In 1991 the V’Ger project was created under the guise of the now defunct DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada) in a joint venture with Canada’s own DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program. Their shared goal was the same, but perhaps their motives were not. Both agencies were working on an artificial aquatic life form that was designed to move within a swarm of other likeminded artificials. They were designed to blend into the surroundings as just another school of fish. The units were programmed to explore North America’s waters in hopes of better understanding its mysteries in a discrete manner. They would navigate and map North America’s oceanic and fresh waters by following various aquatic specie migration routes. Once a year, one unit within the school would surface briefly to upload the sequestered information. The culmination of all this gathered information by the agencies scientists was poured into the first of its kind, Eoz 7, an artificial aquatic avatar.

Seventeen years later, on August 29th 2008 AD, the accidental release of V’Ger’s work occurred. The Eoz 7 beta unit was deployed into the Kitimat River for testing; adjacent to Eurocan the largest producer of Kraft based E-Paper in the world. What happened next could never have been predicted. It is believed that on the night in question, the V’Ger deployment team were running a live test with the beta unit at full physical operational capacity. At the time only a rudimentary operating system based on basic logic had been programmed into its CPU. This logic was to be based on its ability to react with its environment, and more importantly, the rest of its school of beta units. Its algorithms were based on a SWARM technology, similar to the Traffic Hover Cams one finds gliding overhead in every city today. It is now understood that this was the only fully functional prototype built. For testing purposes, the V’Ger crew fitted the Eoz 7 with Nano-particle simulators that would deploy and generate holographic representations of itself in which to interact with, thus simulating the SWARM algorithm.

The main goal of this particular beta unit however, remains unclear. Its CPU had been divided into two divisions, one based on the DFO’s needs, the other of DARPA’s. We can ascertain from information gleaned from its memory banks, that exploration and capture of information was its driving force. The three laws which all robots follow today were never violated by the unit, but its basic logic and DARPA based processing did allow it some leeway - which explains its extended lifespan.

The purpose of the test was to check its ability to process and assimilate a variety of sensory input, and store it correctly in its Organic Based Memory System. Records show that the test had been somehow interrupted. The team present at the time was nowhere to be found, and the beta unit was thought to be lost. The surrounding test area, at the defunct Eurocan Pump house was found in destruction. The footings of the large concrete pump house had given away after years of erosion. The displacement of the pump-house hitting the adjacent water would have created a large wake, cresting up the beach washing it clean of any evidence of the V’Ger project and its crew. The only remaining debris, aside from the pump house, was a large transformer - it’s burnt and blackened cables still arcing were wrapped around the communication tether. Whether the team was swept into the river is unknown, but scientists speculate the downed transformer was the catalyst for the beta unit’s evolutionary beginnings.”

What we have left of the V’Ger project is proudly on display before you, the Eoz 7. It was found in 2038 AD, by a group of fisherman who had been watching a bear downstream. Tired of batting a fish like object around, the bear wandered off in search of real food. Cautiously, the fisherman inked slowly forward, observing what they believed to be a fish skeleton wriggling on the mud bank. Stripped of most of its Nano-particle based skin, it soon became unable to keep producing hydrogen gas from the water: its primary energy source. Its internal transponder, now land based, could finally dispatch a message to its creator. The accidental release bask in 1991 had damaged its deep sea antenna and could only transmit if the entire body was land born. The three laws, one being self preservation, had prevented the Eoz 7 from ever intentionally becoming land borne. This it had assimilated from observing the deaths of many organic based organisms forced to the surface.

All though devoid of its Nano-particle skin, Main Memory bank and decanted proteins, the Eoz 7 before you is reasonably intact. The files regarding its original A.I. source have been lost but we can glean that somehow the electrical charge driven through the Eoz 7 reanimated some of the cells within the biometric gene sampler; this in conjunction guided by its original programming generated a neural network of sorts. This is the basis for all standard A.I.’s found in robotics today. This allowed the Eoz 7 to become aware of its Nano companions. Hence, it learned to control them, modifying its own body to produce hydrogen as a power source which extended its life indefinitely.

Its exo-skeletal shell is a titanium based alloy with tungsten wound carbon fiber tendons. Today’s robotics of course use carbonic muscle, but the camshaft array used here still functions. The rear sampling tanks, had since been converted for excess hydrogen storage. The Eoz 7’s mouth was an odd structure designed for the DFO. It was thought it could be used to bite through and sever poachers’ long lines and nets. One of the units’ eye sensors was badly damaged in the bear attack, the other still functions, although not as the Eoz 7 would use it. It used the eyes for mostly close work as the Nano-particles could be sent out for viewing of distant items and/or navigation. Its eyes were mostly designed to be used when the Eoz 7 would film the surrounding land areas at night, thanks to its infra-red capabilities. Its non-disclosed defensive capabilities have been removed for safety. The central biometric gene sampler has since been drained of its A.I. protein network and replace with a synthesized oil to resemble the previous fluid for display purposes only. The main memory banks have yet to be released for study as they remain highly classified. Perhaps one day we can learn the Eoz 7’s true story, and perhaps discover how it came to be on a mud bank, left for a dead. Some hypothesize the Eoz 7 deliberately allowed itself to be beached - not to die - by realizing that if it could just send out one final signal, perhaps it just might meet its creator.....

If you liked this, make sure to vote for me if you see a contest vote option. These come around from time to time. Also rate me, it takes just a click and lets me know how I'm doing.

Some related work can be found in the links below, like my recent 300lb fighting robot - Lil' Timmy, now with video

or my Animatronic hand

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    25 Discussions

    I thought I had a problem with seafood before. This one has a high metal content in it. :lol:

    I know, I built it before instuctables, so I never documented it. However, the basic shell was a downloaded papercraft version of a salmon. You can find these for free all over the internet. The actual mechanics are similiar to my animatronic hand which i did provide an instructable for. The best way is to build the shell, using nails as pivots points, then figure out how best to run the aircraft cable of the motors.

    um, should be easy enough. Depends on how you want it to move, hydraulic? servo's off an arduino type platform, or mechanical like the fish and my hand. Hydraulic tends to last the longest for repeat movement over long lengths of time. Thats why amusement parks always use hydraulics or pneumatics. Servo's are kinda lacking in the whole soul department, but easy enough. Crank shafts and pull rods would work just fine for something like that. Frame, skin, robot like or realistic?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good morning: I find your work to be quite delightful....I kept wanting to look inside and see how everything was working. I congratulate you on a job well done. KUDOS......DOWTONg

    Thanks!, and maybe to the steam punk, it is all camshafts and chunky metal but... that pesky electric motor, perhaps a coal powered steam driven version. give me enough metal and I can make a robot anything! However... it wouldn't really be a robot, animatronic suits it better. It is interactive, but not really self guided like the true aspect of what a robot is kinda supposed to be.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    You're so creative! If I gave you a pile of random odds and ends, I wonder what you could come up with?

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Wonderful animatronic. I'd love to have this in our lounge! Thank you for putting it up here. A well deserved win, I'd say.

    1 reply

    Thank you, lol, it is for sale, but... shipping is so pricey, but more importantly the wood cabinet suffered water damage. so the fish has been removed. All the electronics are attached and ready to go, the metal stand can be removed and the fish hung from wire. Then it would wriggle mid air, you would just route the wires up one of the guy cables. OR, you can make your own. Total build time was about 18 hours, stretched over 4 months. One of those when i have the time builds, pesky life always gets in the way


    8 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for sharing. Loved this build, especially the fish-eye lens and TV monitor. Not surprised it won first prize- richly deserved. I'm just finishing a build involving a steampunk-inspired brass and copper arm, holding a lighting unit as a wall-mount for my son's bedroom. I plan to build a fully functional hand and arm next and was interested to see you've done an animatronic hand. Can you provide any details/pics?

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is the most awesome thing I have ever seen. I've had an idea like this for reverse engineering the shark from James and the Giant Peach, except I'm using parts of an old RC submarine and building it from copper.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    sweet, it is very simple to do. In you typical china town they have little gold fish key chains that are built the same way, this is basically that. Each section of the fish has little eyelets welded on the inside, the cables slip through them. The cam shaft puts tension one cable and it will pull it to that side, then the other applies tension, relaxing the first and the tail moves the other way. Once it gets going a natural serpentine motion evolves. Quite neat in real life. Power window motors from cars run just fine submerged in water for quite a long time, "months". Combine that with a prop and it would be sweet. We put ours in water suspended from cables and it moved forward under the undulating motion of the metal skeletal body alone. Make it, it will be awesome!!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh yeah I totally love those things! Speaking of "serpentine" you know what would make an awesome instructable? An electronic aluminum version of those plastic jointed snakes! I have a wooden version nearly built but basing it on your fish technology would make this build!