SEOUL, July 31 (Korea Bizwire) – The biomimetic “robot fish” developed during the previous Lee Myung-bak Administration designed to monitor water quality in the nation’s major river systems proved to be malfunctioning or incapable of carrying out the functions as they were supposed to perform.
Korea’s Board of Audit & Inspection said on July 30 that its investigations on 14 state-run research centers including the Korea Research Council for Industrial Science and Technology for three months from January to March this year yielded 48 instances of misconduct.
The robot fish was developed jointly by four research labs including the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) as part of a mega-project called the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project during the Lee government between 2008 and 2013. The think tanks spent three years from June 2010 to June 2013 to develop the robots at the cost of 5.7 billion won (US$5.54 million) received from the research council.
The council announced recently that the project was “successful” based on reports submitted by KITECH last year. The Board of Audit & Inspection found however that the council manipulated data and exaggerated that the fish could swim at 2.5 meters per second instead of 1.8 meters per second.
But the actual test by the auditors revealed that the fish crawled at only 23 centimeters a second (0.83 kilometer per hour). As for underwater data transmission speed, the research council said it was 4,800 bps. But the test results fell far short of that level and remained at 200 bps.
The government auditors said they were unable to test swarm control and location recognition abilities of the fishes as only two out of nine robots were operational at the time of the test. The auditors also found that a sensor that should measure the water’s murkiness had not been installed on the fish.
The other four sensors that the fish were supposed to have were designed to measure temperature, acidity, electrical conduction, and dissolved oxygen quantity in river water. But the only sensor operational during the test was one gauging electrical conduction. The other three sensors broke down during the test.
A Board of Audit & Inspection official said, “Because the Korea Research Council for Industrial Science and Technology did not adequately review the research project, it has become difficult to trust the assessment results it provided.” The agency also demanded that the council punish two of the research scientists at KITECH for violation of research ethics.
By Sean Chung (firstname.lastname@example.org)