Have you ever wanted to trick a fish? Of course you have. And now, through the miracle of robotics, we can make that dream a reality. Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University have invented a robotic fish that moves realistically enough to cause real fish to follow it in a school. In the process, they have learned (at least partly) what makes a leader among fish: beating its tail rapidly. This creates a wake in which other fish can follow with less tail movement, which might be similar to geese flying in a V-shape to lessen wind resistance for the followers.
The implications are pretty cool: robotics like these might open up a whole new range of possible interactions between researchers and the animals they study. After all, it’s easier for us to create a robot that looks and moves like an animal than it is for us to mask the sounds, smells and appearance of a human researcher. In the case of the robo-fish, for example, something similar could be used in the future to steer fish populations away from toxic spills or other dangers.
Image: Polytechnic Institute of New York University
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