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Thread: "next-gen" idea #1: Bionic Mermaid Fins (Animatronic Fins with Myoelectric Control)

  1. #1

    Exclamation "next-gen" idea #1: Bionic Mermaid Fins (Animatronic Fins with Myoelectric Control)

    As per my previous post to all advanced tail makers and engineers, here’s my first “next-gen” mermaid tail enhancement idea: Animatronic fins with myoelectric control.

    TLDR: Build an animatronic mechanism within the tail that allows you to move your fins with squeezing your muscles or wiggling your toes.

    Read on for more details:


    There’s a lot of exciting work going on in the prosthesis space over the last decade. For those who don’t know, myoelectric control is when a is controlled by the electrical signals in your own muscles.

    Animatronic creatures have been used in movies for decades. The tough part would be to have a mechanism that is light and simple enough to be myo-electrically controlled, and safe (of course). Two ideas:


    1. “Ferrofluid” has been used for art and engineering applications (most commonly in car suspensions) for a while now.
    2. Another, more affordable idea would be using nitinol, flexinol or other muscle wires. Here’s a video of a butterfly built with them, You’d probably have to use the largest and strongest wires (they can pull up to 2kg) so that they can move in the water.


    In either case, you mold fins to have hollow “spines”, and then fill them with either the ferrofluid or the muscle wire.

    You’d only need a small, microcontroller (like the tiny Arduino which are already used in bionics) that would fit between the thighs inside the tail. Finally also need a power source and some EMG Sensors on the muscles you want to control the fin.

    Some possible fin controls and configurations:

    • Squeeze your butt cheeks, to erect the dorsal fin, relax to depress
    • Squeeze your thigh muscles, to flare out the respective pelvic fins
    • Squeeze your calves, to flare out lower dorsal / side fins


    The most impressive and complex fin would be the caudal You can wear toe socks wrapped with EMG sensors that could control a vast array of various movements:

    • Flare your toes to flare out your fin
    • Wiggle a big toe to control the respective outer spine of the fin (for some flicking, or “come hither” movements with your tail!)
    • Squeeze your toes to compress and streamline the fin


    Obviously there are safety concerns here, everything would have to be 100% waterproof for this to work and have a strong enough, lightweight power source.

    But just imagine the control you’d have in the water. You would truly be able to swim like a fish.

    It would take your mermaid tail’s realism to the next level. If anyone would see you sunning and relaxing on a rock and startle you, your fins would flare out involuntarily as your muscles would tense up - before you jump back into the water. There would be no doubt in their minds that they truly saw a real mermaid.

    Let me know what you guys think of this idea!

    She11sea

  2. #2
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    It will be very very heavy unless you find a way to streamline everything and lessen the weight to equal a silicone tail. Otherwise its just an idea and not something doable.
    Formerly known as ireneho

  3. #3
    Weight in the water is never an issue since it can be carried by compressed air.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    Bulky is what I meant. Not streamlined.
    Formerly known as ireneho

  5. #5
    Arduinos are tiny, with a board inside a capsule can easily fit between the legs of a person within the tail.

  6. #6
    Member Euro Pod Kelpie Thyra's Avatar
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    muskle wire is difficult,it neets to be brought to temperature 70 to 90°C... fun to try if it's always cooled by water
    just a random Kelpie... "wanna come to my lake?"

  7. #7
    From what I understand who only need to heat it to that high temperature when you defining the final shape of it, and then by sending an electrical field through it goes from a "limp" state to the "flexed" state. I'm going to get some kits and try it out.

    Regardless, there are other materials out there, electroactive polymers for example, like when used in bionics, like in this Ted Talk.

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