Bioinspired robot shakes a tail to fool fish

December 7, 2012

A robot fake fish is action (credit: Vladislav Kopman et al./Polytechnic Institute of New York University)

Zebrafish are attracted to robots that can convincingly imitate Zebrafish tail motions, researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) found in an experiment in “ethorobotics” — the study of bioinspired robots interacting with live animal counterparts.

Maurizio Porfiri, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NYU-Poly and students used image-based tracking software to analyze the movement of the live zebrafish and provide real-time feedback to the robot.

They found that zebrafish were most attracted to the robot when its tail-beating motion replicated the behavior of “informed fish” attempting to lead “naive fish.” When the robotic fish increased its tail beat frequency as a live fish approached, the zebrafish were likeliest to spend time near the robot.

This study shows the effectiveness of real-time visual feedback in efforts to use robots to influence live animal behavior. The findings may have particular application in wildlife conservation.

No word if Chuck Berry music was used in the study. — Ed.