Posted by Dabney B. on Friday, April 19th, 2013
Technology is getting crazy. The military is building laser guns, we can carry around the Internet in our pockets, and 3D printers allow you to create virtually anything in just a few minutes. You might think that aquariums would be somewhat removed from the technology explosion because the natural world and technology generally don’t mix very well, but you’d be dead wrong.
Behold the Robo Fish, a Japanese-made fish that flits around your aquascape:
If you’re anything like me, then your initial reaction is, “Oh, that’s silly. Who would want to replace authentic tropical fish with plastic knock offs?”
I’m with you! No machine will ever replace the natural beauty of a professionally crafted aquascape, but the video does make you wonder… Is the Robo Fish really all that bad?
Technology has really changed a lot in the past couple of decades, so much so that we’ve gradually changed our perceptions about beauty. Take the iPhone, for example. Many people adore the sleek design and remark that there’s beauty in its simplicity. If you had told somebody 30 years ago that their gigantic clunky landline telephones would eventually transform into something beautiful, you’d probably be laughed at. The same goes for cars. Is a Lexus beautiful? At the end of the day it’s just a machine, but there are plenty of people who drool at the sleek design of luxury automobiles.
There may actually be room for robotic creatures in the future, especially if engineers can leap over the uncanny valley and design fish that are much more fish-like. Actually, starting with fish might be overly ambitious. I could very easily see a roboticist designing a lifelike hermit crab. Crabs are almost robot-like in their movements already, and the thick shells would make it easy for designers to hide screws and seams. And take a look at these fiber optic cables.
They’re already visually reminiscent of sea anemones and jellyfish tentacles. They almost look like they came from some sort of biolumnescent sea creature. A skilled artist could probably transform those cables into a passable facsimile of a saltwater creature.
Now, I’m not saying that robotic creatures will ever replace authentic tropical fish. Far from it — mankind has been keeping aquariums for millenia and we will undoubtedly continue to do so. I’m just trying to point out how much technology could change the world of aquascaping over the next couple of decades. Robotic sea creatures might eventually become common, beautiful, and even popular.
The biggest advantage of this type of technology is that it can go where nature can’t. Roboticists could create new, never-before-seen sea creatures like Cthulhu fish, alien squids, or Spongebob-inspired coral. An aquarium like this would be perfect in a kid’s room. You could populate the aquarium with robotic versions of his favorite characters, and then when the child gets older you can replace the robots with living sea creatures.
So, we’ll all have to keep an eye on robotic technology. It may be a long ways off from matching the beauty of a custom aquarium, but it has the potential to fundamentally change the aquascaping hobby.