Sperm Whale Introduces Her Calf to a Robotic Spy Whale

Scientists and cinematographers are constantly searching for new ways to gather information about animals. In one such attempt, John Downer Productions launched a realistic-looking submersible robotic whale to capture unique footage and gain insight into the intelligence of these creatures.

John Downer Productions is an award-winning media company that specializes in wildlife footage for television, feature films, and commercials. John Downer, the producer and director, began his career with the BBC Natural History Unit and has directed a number of animal-focused programs and even a few music videos. Recently, John Downer Productions captured incredible footage with the help of a robotic crab.

The company has been creating innovative natural history films for over 30 years. The company focuses on “groundbreaking immersive visuals” and “challenging the conventional way of filming to deliver pioneering propositions that excite and delight audiences.”

As spotted by Laughing Squid, John Downer Productions created the robotic submersible for the BBC/PBS television series titled Spy in the Ocean. The four-part series, which David Tennant narrates, relies on “hyperreal Spies” to film unique, closeup encounters with animals. Each episode examines different aspects of ocean animals, including intelligence, relationships, extraordinary abilities, and even bad behavior.

The robotic sperm whale spy used for the show is roughly the size of a young sperm whale calf. The team captured footage of a sperm whale mother and her calf appearing to introduce themselves to the robotic creature. In the footage, the mother uses clicking sounds to communicate. “In a magical close encounter, Spy Whale is greeted by an inquisitive female who, in astonishing scenes, attempts to communicate. In a touching sign of acceptance, she even introduces her calf to Spy Whale,” the team explains in the episode description on its website. The pair gets incredibly close to the robotic spy, resulting in truly unique footage.

The sperm whale submersible is just one of many realistic robots that the group created. In the same episode, a robotic puffer fish assists a male Japanese puffer in crafting a detailed sand sculpture in his search for a mate. The series also includes the likes of a color-changing cuttlefish, an octopus, a sea lion, a dolphin, macaques, and a hermit crab. It’s an entertaining series, well worth a watch for those who are interested in the natural world.