March 15, 2006

Robo-Carp Could Monitor Fishy Business

TOKYO -- Armed with nothing more than a couple of sensors, a robotic fish unveiled by Japanese scientists this week could one day be used to observe fish in the ocean or survey oil platforms for damage.

Modeled on the koi, a decorative strain of carp popular in Japan, the remote-controlled white, red and gold robot can maneuver its way around a fish pond with a realistic flick of its tail.

The 80-cm (32-inch) carp can also use sensors in its mouth to monitor the concentration of oxygen in water, a key to fish health, said project leader Tetsuo Ichikizaki of Ryomei Giken, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, in Hiroshima, western Japan.

Koi are seen as a symbol of strength and good fortune in Japan, where they have been bred for their distinctive colors at least since the 19th century. They are depicted on streamers hung outside homes to mark Children's Day, a public holiday in May.

The robotic fish, which cost 30 million yen ($250,000) to develop from a previous prototype, is unlikely to meet the fate of many of its living counterparts, which are sliced up and eaten raw as sashimi.