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Science, Technology

Obama Meets The Robots: But Could They Save the World?

Last week, US President Barak Obama was seen in Japan hanging out with robots! He took a break from the APEC Summit to be given a guided tour of some of the world’s newest robots.

Sadly, what he saw was pretty embarrassing:  A talking female robot that had all the sophistication of a 1970s B-Movie, an irritating robotic ‘pet’ seal and a mobility chair that nearly collapsed on him! Rather than being a showcase for trailblazing technology, it was a farce that probably had Obama wishing he was back in a dull conference on economics…

Robo-Fish: A swimming robot that helps to clean up marine pollution

This is a real shame because what he saw doesn’t reflect many exciting developments afoot in robotics.

In the UK, a team of scientists and engineers have been building robots that could be humankind’s best weapon at saving the planet from pollution. Nicknamed ‘Robo-fish’ these cutting-edge machines move and act just like the real thing but are equipped to detect and fight pollution.

Introducing the Pollution Hunting Robo-Fish!

BMT Group have created life-like robotic fish that swim and hunt for pollution in the sea; this is normally a time-consuming and expensive job requiring scuba divers to swim down and collect water samples, which are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. But these robo-fish could make that a thing of the past.

The ‘robo-fish‘ are intelligent and are sent out in shoals hunting for pollution. They are equipped with more onboard gadgets than James Bond’s Aston Martin: a sonar head means robo-fish can swim around obstacles, a GPS receiver in the fin means the fish never get lost and chemical sensors in its back wirelessly transmit live pollution readings ‘back to base’. These fish will even swim back to dock to get their batteries recharged – automatically! I wish my mobile phone would do that…

Robo-fish swims by moving its tail side to side - just like real fish!

I was fortunate enough to see a prototype model of Robo-fish (on show in the London Science Museum) and was pretty amazed. But they cost £20,000 each, and these 1.5 metre long plastic fish-bots better hope they don’t get mistaken for a real fish; or else a hungry shark could end up chomping on something rather less tasty than tuna!

So, forget the evil Terminator robots of the movies, robots of the future will help us in our struggle with disasters and global warming. What a shame no-one told Obama about Robo-fish before the BP oil disaster… 

 

Read More:

Watch a prototype Robo-Fish in action on National Geographic Online.

Get the low-down on the technical side of Robo-Fish at the Science Museum website.

Learn about every type of robot at http://www.learnaboutrobots.com/

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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