Sometimes robotic animals are designed to save their real-life counterparts. That’s the thinking behind Dr. Huosheng Hu’s robotic fish, which are designed to patrol waters and monitor pollution levels so that people can locate and clean up toxic areas.
While there aren’t schools of ersatz fish roaming the seas right now, Dr. Hu’s prototypes are pretty impressive. Not only can they move in the natural, “S”-like way that real fish do, they’re also equipped with infrared sensors to avoid bumping into things, pressure sensors to measure depth and gyroscopes for balance.
According to Motherboard TV’s recent short documentary on the subject, Dr. Hu’s lab has produced 18 generations of robotic fish. While the shiny, scaly versions of the fish that delighted people at the London Aquarium in 2005 certainly looked cool, the latest versions are a bit more utilitarian. Today, they sport shiny carbon fiber shells and are three times as big, stretching out to almost five feet, which is neccesary to fit in all of the equipment the fish need to go from the placid environs of the aquarium to the turbulent waters of the sea.
Why not just use regular submersibles to monitor ocean pollution? Because real fish aren’t disturbed by the gentle motion of Dr. Hu’s robots like they are with machines that use propellers. That means his robotic fish can cruise for up to eight hours at a time without scaring away the fish they were designed to protect.