The man who created the Roomba is working on two robots designed to hunt down invasive lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
One of the robots is equipped with a spear gun that can impale lionfish from a distance. The other has a robotic arm that will electrocute any lionfish it comes across. Right now both are controlled by humans, but the organization behind these devices hopes to make them fully autonomous hunter-killers in the future, allowing them to roam the oceans and cull the invasive species on their own.
Work on these devices started after iRobot chief executive Colin Angle visited Bermuda in 2015, PBS reports, and learned about the lionfish’s impact on the ocean’s ecosystems. Angle then founded Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE) and brought on a bunch of experts to design the ocean’s robotic champion.
Lionfish eat more and reproduce faster than native species. They also don’t have any natural predators in their new territories. RISE’s robots are just one potential solution to this problem — another is hunting down these fish and turning them into delicious dishes for people to enjoy.
These aren’t the first robots inspired by aquatic life. In June, a robot designed to move like a salamander helped researchers understand how spinal cords work, and in July, another group of scientists designed a stingray robot that runs on rat heart cells.
But those robots were designed to mimic life forms, not help hunt them down. RISE’s robots are unique in that regard, and depending on how well they’re taught to operate on their own, they could become a technological shark in the waters. The invasive king of the ocean has finally met its match.