Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore viewed the world through the eyes of a miniature robot during a visit to a laboratory.
The device is part of a £7.2 million project to develop futuristic micro-robots that will work in underground pipe networks.
Mr Skidmore, MP for Kingswood in Gloucestershire, wore a headset linked to the robot as it moved through a laboratory at the University of Bristol.
Four universities, including Bristol, are beginning a five-year project to develop the tiny devices, which will eventually become as small as 1cm long.
The robots will use sensors, navigation and communication systems to detect, report and mend faults in the pipes and eliminate the need for human intervention.
They will carry out repairs without digging up roads, leading to the end of many disruptive and expensive roadworks.
Mr Skidmore, previously a part-time history tutor at the university, said the work had “huge potential”.
“There is approximately £5.5 billion spent on road repairs every year, with 1.5 million roads dug up,” he said.
The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is being led by the University of Sheffield.
It also includes the development of ultrasonic array imaging, the engineering equivalent of ultrasound used on people.
This technology will be mounted to the miniature robots to look for cracks in pipe networks.
Professor Bruce Drinkwater, of the University of Bristol, said the project would involve around 30 academics, researchers and students at the four universities.
“Here at Bristol, we are developing the sensors that are responsible for navigation, communication between robots and with the base station, and also the detection of leaks, blockages and more subtle damage such as cracking and corrosion,” he said.
“We are absolutely delighted to be involved in this new technology.
“It is also a great topic to talk to people about and enthuse them about engineering.”