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All the best underwater photos from the Olympics were taken by robots

Just wait until the bot starts its own Instagram account.


AJ Dellinger


Posted on Aug 11, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 6:56 am CDT

When the most dominant swimmers at the Olympics jump in the (surprisingly green-tinted) pools in Rio, they aren’t alone. Beneath them is a robotic camera rig that has been catching all of the action.

Placed underwater by Getty photographers Al Bello, Clive Rose, and Adam Pretty, the robotic rig gives the picture takers better angles than they could ever get on their own while shooting during the swimming, diving, and synchronized diving events.

Instead of using a typical submersible stationary camera, which left the photographers stuck trying to time when to take a shot and guessing when swimmers were in frame, the underwater robots provide the ability to adjust shots in real time. 

With remote control of the rig, the photographers can zoom in and out, tilt, and spin the Canon 1DX Mark II camera that is housed inside the pod. It’s all done through a video game-style controller, and the photographers can see the adjustments happen in real time via a computer screen that broadcasts a live feed of what the camera sees.

Remote access to the devices provides a huge advantage to photographers, who are barred from entering the water during competition. 

The SCUBA certified picture takers can troubleshoot the cameras at the end of each day, but if they needed to make adjustments to a static camera during a competition, they would be unable to. With the robotic rig, it’s just a matter of adjusting the angle remotely.   

For aspiring photographers who would one day like to make the trip to the Olympics, don’t worry; robots won’t be doing away with humans any time soon. “The robots are just another tool for me to get better photos,” Bello told CNN. “A robot doesn’t think on its own or come up with ideas. But it can help us get photos more efficiently than ever before.”


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*First Published: Aug 11, 2016, 1:32 pm CDT