8 SERVO 02.2017
In case you haven’t heard, we have a serious problem
with lionfish. As summarized by the World Lionfish Hunters
Association ( lionfish.co), “Invasive lionfish are disastrously
out-breeding, out-living, out-eating, and out-competing
every other native fish in the Western Atlantic Ocean, Gulf
of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. If left unchecked,
lionfish will ultimately cause the destruction of the reefs,
native fish stocks, and the livelihoods of everyone that
A suggested solution is that we catch and eat more of
them, and lionfish are said to be tasty. Problem is, they are
equipped with venomous spines that dampen most
people’s desire to fish for them, and given that a female
can release up to two million eggs per year, it would take a
lot of fishing to make a dent in the population.
To combat the problem, more than a dozen partners —
including iRobot, electrofisher builder Smith-Root, ocean
exploration organization Nekton, and various Bermudan
institutions — have joined together to form Robots in
Service of the Environment (RISE, robotsise.com). Their
solution is the Harvester lionfish hunter which is currently
just a prototype, and is sort of a combination bug zapper
and underwater Roomba. (There is also a version armed
with a spear.)
Zapped fish are to be collected in a central chamber
and harvested for food. RISE plans to eventually launch
thousands of units so — with any luck — filets will eventually
be showing up on the menu in your local seafood hangout.
When that happens, we all need to do our ecological duty
and eat up!
Prototype of RISE’s lionfish hunter robot.
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Astrobot Comes to Earth
You may recall Kirobo, a robo-astronaut that hung around the
International Space Station for 18
months starting in August 2013.
Kirobo was created by the
University of Tokyo and roboticist
Tomotaka Takahashi (with
assistance from Toyota and the
Japan Aerospace Exploration
Agency), specifically to assist
Commander Koichi Wakata, the
first Japanese ISS commander.
Using some of the same
technology, Toyota has announced
the upcoming availability of its
Kirobo Mini robot. The Mini —
only 10 cm ( 4 in) tall when sitting
— is a miniature communication
partner developed solely “to
Kirobo Mini doesn’t actually do much, but it can turn
its head toward the person speaking and engage in casual
conversation while moving its
head and hands. Conversations
can even include information that
the little guy collects via Bluetooth
in your home or car. Presumably,
this will allow it to say things like
“be careful” when you’re about to
drive into a tree or “open
containers are illegal” when you
pop a can of beer.
The built-in camera enables it
to recognize people’s facial
expressions, detect their emotional
state, and react accordingly.
However, the Mini doesn’t include
face recognition, so it won’t know
Aunt Akira from Uncle Takumi.
There’s bad news if you want one,
The initial version will only be
sold in Japan, and it only speaks
Japanese, so if you currently are in need of a friend, well,
forget it. One will cost about $400 at current exchange
rates, so it’s probably just as well.
Toyota’s Kirobo Mini companion bot.