In every science fiction movie or book or television show, this is where it always starts. We build intelligent robots to help us out with things but, by the end, we end up working for them. Before we get cozy with the idea of that indentured future, we might as well enjoy the robots' subservience while we can, and no better way to start out than with the robots that will clean our planet up in ways we struggle or aren't able to.
Artificially intelligent fish robots - or should that be "arti-FISH-al intelligence"? - have been developed by European scientists as a way to identify and help clean up pollution in water. Constructed by engineers at SHOAL, a consortium of different European groups collaborating on developing artificially intelligent robots, the robot fish are currently being tested out in the northern Spanish port of Gijon.
Luke Speller, the Project Leader of SHOAL, described the huge advances that these intelligent robotic fish can offer environmental watchdogs. "SHOAL has introduced the capability of cutting the detection and analysis of pollutants in sea water time from weeks to just a few seconds," he said in a statement. "Chemical sensors fitted to the fish permit real-time in-situ analysis, rather than the current method of sample collection and dispatch to a shore based laboratory."
"Furthermore," he added, "the Artificial Intelligence which has been introduced means that the fish can identify the source of pollution enabling prompt and more effective remedial action.”
The fish have been described as a veritable Voltron of maritime attributes: they move at about the same speed of tuna, are capable of accelerating as fast as a pike, and possess the navigation skills of an eel. More, the fish are smart enough to map where they are, know where to look out for pollution, and locate the source of the pollution. They even come back home when they sense their batteries are almost drained.
The concept of developing robotic fish has evolved over the years, beginning with University of Essex researcher and professor Dr. Huosheng Hu. Check out the brief intro to Dr. Hu's work in the video below (skip to about 0:41 to get to the actual content).
Here's another video of scientists at Essex putting the robot fish in the water for a test drive. It mimics the actual movement of fish so elegantly that you'd think this was a real fish if you ever saw it. Well, a real fish with its own custom-built Iron Man armor. Also, it's kinda funny to see how, in this particular test run, the fish bonks right into that glass barrier.
The model that's currently being testing in the waters off of Spain is more like the one you'll see below. It's less ornate but no less impressive.
As you can imagine, these robot fish don't come cheap. The price tag of these scaly friends runs around $31,000 each but SHOAL hopes to have the fish in mass production in order to reduce the cost.
It's kinda nice, though, that before the robots overtake us as the dominant race, they're gonna work a while to make sure we get to take one last nice, clean swim in the ocean.