The learner driver fish - it will bowl you over

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
Adam Ben-Dror
CAMERON BURNELL/ Fairfax NZ

MAKING WAVES: Design student Adam Ben-Dror with the mobile fishbowl that allows his pet goldfish, Suzuki, to ‘‘drive’’. 

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A new device made by a Wellington design student is allowing fish to drive.

Victoria University design student Adam Ben-Dror has developed the Abovemarine - an interactive device that allows his pet Siamese fighting fish Suzuki to experience the outside world by "driving" his own bowl.

"It's like a land submarine and it's freed him from his bowl, but it's still kind of a pathetic existence," Ben-Dror said.

Watch video of the Abovemarine in action here.

The multi-directional mobile fish tank is controlled by the fish's movement, which is tracked by a webcam in an experiment designed to challenge the assumption that fish are stupid.

He began the project while on an exchange at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh but quarantine issues stopped him bringing back his two best test drivers - Pedro and Jose.

"Jose was the original star, he was a real champ - I taught him to jump out of the water."

Suzuki is still getting his bearings, but Ben-Dror said he could now "play" with other species such as people and dogs.

The device poses questions about the memory reserves and brainpower of fish - do they have free will and do they understand what they are doing?

In the West it is still widely held that goldfish have a three-second memory span while in parts of Southeast Asia, goldfish were thought to live in puddles so were believed to be happy living in confined spaces, he said.

"They are often seen as being like a lava lamp that needs feeding."

The project has a deeper philosophical meaning too: "When you get your fish back from the pet store, no-one seems to value it and that applies to just more than fish - if you can commit to things more in life, you can appreciate what you have and you don't have to be hungry for more all the time."

The Abovemarine uses Arduino - open-source hardware used to make interactive devices.

Victoria University's Faculty of Architecture and Design is hosting the Wellington event for worldwide Arduino Day today.

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- The Dominion Post

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