Engineered robot interacts with live fish

Jun 07, 2012
Engineered robot interacts with live fish

A bioinspired robot has provided the first experimental evidence that live zebrafish can be influenced by engineered robots.

Results published today, 8 June, in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, provide a stepping stone on the path to using in an open environment to monitor and control .

In the future, water-based robots could potentially contribute to the protection of endangered animals and the control of pest species.

The robot, created by researchers from Polytechnic Institute of New York University and Instituto Superiore di Sanitá, Italy, was 15 centimetres long and spray-painted with the characteristic blue stripes of the zebrafish. The tail of the robot was mechanically controlled by the researchers to mimic the action of the zebrafish itself.

When placed in a 65 litre tank, the movements of the robot's tail attracted both individual and shoals of zebrafish; the researchers believe that such capability was influenced by its bioinspired features which were optimised to increase attraction.

For example, the robot was given a rounder shape to mimic a fertile female, which is preferred by both male and female zebrafish, and its colour pattern – a magnified stripe width and saturated yellow pigment – emphasized distinctive biologically relevant features.

The robot was in a fixed position in the tank so that the tail movements could be controlled, recorded and, most importantly, associated with the behaviour of the zebrafish.

The fish tank where the experiments took place was divided into one large middle section and two smaller sections at either end, separated by transparent Plexiglas. A total of 16 experiments were performed in which individual, and then shoals of, zebrafish were placed in the middle compartment of the tank and two stimuli were placed at either end behind the Plexiglass.

The combinations of stimuli were: one fish versus an empty space; ten fish versus an empty space; ten fish versus one fish; the robot versus an empty space, and the robot versus one fish.

A camera was placed above the tank to monitor the movements of the zebrafish, and statistical tests were performed to calculate whether the robot acted as an attractive, neutral or aversive stimulus and whether this relationship depends on the fish being isolated or in a shoal.

Although the live tended to prefer each other to the robot, when given the choice to spend time next to the robotic fish or an empty space, both the individual fish and shoal of fish preferred the . While the noise of the robot's motor was shown to decrease its attraction, the actual beating of the tail emphasized its attractiveness.

The corresponding author, Dr Maurizio Porfiri, said: "These findings provide practical evidence that a species' preference for conspecifics may be used to inspire the design of robots which can actively engage their source of inspiration.

"New studies are currently underway in our lab investigating the interactions between fish and robotic fish when they are free to swim together under controlled and ecologically complex conditions."

Explore further: Robots recognize humans in disaster environments

More information: "Zebrafish response to robotic fish: preference experiments on isolated individuals and small shoals" Bioinspir. Biomim. 7 036019. iopscience.iop.org/1748-3190/7/3/036019

Related Stories

Robot fish found able to lead real fish (w/ video)

Feb 24, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers studying schooling in fish have discovered that a real fish will follow a robot fish if it will help them use less energy swimming. This is the conclusion of a pair of engineers ...

Fish-shaped robot for underwater research

Dec 16, 2004

The project of underwater bionic robotic fish co-developed by the Institute of Robot under Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) and the Institute of Automation under Chinese Academy of Sciences ...

Can angelfish do math?

Jan 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Beauty and brains don't often come together. But angelfish, a species prized by pet fish owners for its bright good looks, might possess math skills, show studies coauthored by Professor Robert ...

Recommended for you

Robots recognize humans in disaster environments

2 hours ago

Through a computational algorithm, a team of researchers from the University of Guadalajara (UDG) in Mexico, developed a neural network that allows a small robot to detect different patterns, such as images, ...

Japan toymaker unveils tiny talking, singing humanoid

Oct 15, 2014

Japanese toymaker Tomy on Wednesday unveiled a multi-talented humanoid robot, named "Robi jr.," which can converse using some 1,000 phrases and belt out about 50 songs, as well as move its limbs and head.

Can we teach robots right from wrong?

Oct 14, 2014

From performing surgery and flying planes to babysitting kids and driving cars, today's robots can do it all. With chatbots such as Eugene Goostman recently being hailed as "passing" the Turing test, it appears robots are ...

User comments : 0