Interaction Of Robots And Animals Studied Through Ethorobotics
November 21, 2012

Study Sheds Light On Emerging Field Of Ethorobotics – The Interaction Of Robots And Animals

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

New research sheds light on the nascent field of ethorobotics, the study of bioinspired robots that interact with animal counterparts.

Scientists from Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) studied the role of real-time feedback in attracting or repelling live zebrafish in the presence of a robotic fish.

The findings revealed that zebrafish show increased attraction to robots that are able to modulate their tail movements in a way that mimicked the live fishes´ behavior.

The experiments were conducted in a three-chambered instrumented water tank, in which a robotic-fish was juxtaposed with an empty compartment. The team used image-based tracking software to analyze the motions of the live zebrafish and provide real-time feedback to the robot.

Lead researcher Maurizio Porfiri, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NYU-Poly, and colleagues found that zebrafish were most attracted to the robotic member when its tail beating motion replicated the behavior of "informed fish" trying to lead "naive fish".

The zebrafish were most likely to spend time near the robotic fish when it accelerated its tail beat frequency as a live fish approached, the researchers reported.

“The results of this study show that zebrafish respond differently to the pattern of tail-beating motion executed by the robotic-fish. Specifically, the preference and behavior of zebrafish depend on whether the robotic-fish tail-beating frequency is controlled as a function of fish motion, and how such closed-loop control is implemented,” the researchers said.

The findings demonstrate the effectiveness of real-time visual feedback in efforts to use robots to influence live animal behavior.

The researchers said their work could have applications in wildlife conservation, where robotic members could be used to direct live animals or marine groups away from potential danger.

The study was published online November 14 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.