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Finned Robot Leads Gullible Fish Schools

A new fish bot joins the ranks of ethorobotics, or the study of bio-inspired robots that interact with live animal counterparts

Photo: NYU-Poly

A new bot joins the ranks of ethorobotics, or the study of bio-inspired robots that interact with live animal counterparts. Researchers from New York University introduced a fish robot, which attracts and repels real-life zebrafish, who succumb to its mechanical whims.

The researchers used image-based tracking software to analyze the live zebrafish’s movements, then beam those real-time specifics down to their robot. When the robot matched its tail motions in accordance to the movements of gullible zebrafish, the researchers found, the flesh-and-blood fish tended to like the imposter more. If the robot honed in on the tail motions of the lead fish, the more complacent fish were even more likely to follow suit.

The researchers speculate that this system may someday be used to help wildlife conservation efforts, for example, by using robotic endangered species to lead their rare, living counterparts out of harm’s way.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Robots Inspired By Biology 
My Robot Helper of Tomorrow 

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