Researchers Invent Camera-Equipped Robot Fish

Category : Technology/Innovations

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. imitation / ˌɪm ɪˈteɪ ʃən / (n) – a copy or a reproduction of something

    She bought an expensive designer bag online but received a cheap imitation instead.

  2. maneuver / məˈnu vər / (v) – to move in a careful or skillful way

    Some drivers think small cars are easier to maneuver.

  3. disperse / dɪˈspɜrs / (v) – to go or move in different directions

    The crowd at the festival dispersed when it started to rain.

  4. fragile / ˈfrædʒ əl / (adj) – easily broken, destroyed, or damaged

    Please be careful with the package because there are fragile items inside.

  5. distress / dɪˈstrɛs / (n) – a situation in which someone is suffering, in danger, or in need of help

    The sad news caused her to be in distress.


Read the text below.

A team of researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss [veese] Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has created underwater fish robots.

Called the Bluebots, the robots are an imitation of blue tang fish, a species of small fish usually found in Indo-Pacific coral reefs. The 3D-printed Bluebots are about 10 centimeters long. They use cameras and LED lights to see and navigate, and their tiny fins help them maneuver through the water.

According to one researcher, the team got inspiration for the Bluebots when they saw a school of fish while scuba diving. They were fascinated by the fish swimming together without explicit communication, and they wanted to replicate this behavior in the lab.

Designer Florian Berlinger said the robots are capable of grouping together or dispersing as needed with little to no interaction from human controllers. Bluebots can navigate independently by calculating their neighbors’ distance and direction.

They are also capable of cooperating to complete tasks. For instance, a group may be assigned to find a red LED in their tank. Each Bluebot can search independently, but when one of them finds the red LED, that robot sends a signal to call the others.

Berlinger said that other researchers had reached out to him about possibly using the Bluebots for studies about fish swimming and schooling. He said that it makes him happy to hear that they are open to the idea of including his invention among their laboratory fish.

In the future, Berlinger expects that these robots could closely monitor fragile environments, such as coral reefs, without harming marine life. The Bluebots could also explore underneath docks and other spaces that humans cannot reach, and may even be helpful in locating people in distress during search-and-rescue missions.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think studying the Bluebots would really help scientists understand real fish better? Why or why not?
• Do you think researchers and scientists should create more underwater robots like the Bluebots? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think scientists should continue developing underwater robots? Why or why not?
• Aside from underwater research, what other applications can this technology have (e.g. transportation, mapping of terrain)? Discuss.

Category : Technology/Innovations