A robot fish on a scientific mission shoots lasers from its nose, its tail swinging as it swims around a tank. It's part of an effort to showcase technology at Expo 2012, which opens for three months on May 12 in Yeosu, South Korea, with a theme focused on the ocean.
Organizers have coined the term "seavilization" to promote the event in this southern coastal city. It's the first expo to be held in South Korea since 1993, and millions of visitors from around the world are expected to attend. Its formal theme is "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities."
It's also being billed as the biggest gathering of robots in the history of expos, and South Korea hopes the event will help promote the importance of technology — including robots — to develop underwater resources without harming the environment.
In addition to the robot fish with the laser-shooting nose, there is a human-like robot that smiles, cries, frowns and winks at visitors, and at another booth, a group of robots the size of schoolchildren that dances in perfect harmony to the beat of Korean pop music. Another robot that looks like a starfish crawls inside a water tank as it demonstrates its ability to detect and analyze underwater resources.
Organizers hope the expo will both capture visitors' imagination and showcase South Korea's eminence as a technology powerhouse. Other high-tech aspects will include submarines, LED displays and a mobile app that allows people with smartphones to access information while touring the exhibits.
In another effort to use modern technology to draw attention to the coastal setting, Yeosu has also built a gigantic round-shaped structure in the water called the Big-O to display colorful hologram images. Lasers and flames shoot from the structure, which stands about as high as a 13-story building at 41 meters tall and 35 meters wide (135 feet by 115 feet).
Yeosu is a port city 300 kilometers (187 miles) south of Seoul. It is one of the most scenic areas on South Korea's southern coast, with 300 islands nearby. One of its biggest tourist attractions is a wide coast, submerged daily by flood tides and rich with sea life.
The expo venue offers 2.7 million square meters of space (29 million square feet). Typically countries that join the host country for these events create pavilions to showcase their own technology, culture and products related to the expo theme. This year's participants are expected to come from 105 countries and 10 international organizations, organizers said. The organizing committee said it asked North Korea to participate, but Pyongyang has yet to respond.
Expo 2012 is a smaller exposition than the larger world's fairs that are held in years ending in 0 and 5. Those larger events last for six months; the most recent large expo took place in Shanghai in 2010. Smaller expos, like the one in Yeosu, are held every four years for just three months and tend to be in less well-known destinations, such as Zaragoza, Spain, which hosted Expo 2008. The expos are sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions. The next large expo will take place in Milan, Italy, in 2015.