Secret agent fish? Robot infiltrates aquatic schools, influences their behavior

Robots may be getting more realistic but most of us can still discern a human from a humanoid. Fish, on the other hand, seem easier to fool.

Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed an aquatic robot that can infiltrate schools of zebrafish, going so far as to influence their activities. By designing robots to integrate with animal communities, the roboticists hope to unravel these animals’ behavioral and social structures by learning more about how they communicate.

“We wanted to study how a robotic agent can be inserted in a fish shoal, and, when inserted, how this robotic agent could learn how the fish interact, communicate, and take decisions,” Frank Bonnet, an EPFL postdoctoral researcher who worked on the project, told Digital Trends.

The robot has two parts — a magnetic fish and a motor, which is positioned underneath the aquarium and helps propel the robot through the water.

To infiltrate the school, the EPFL team identified characteristics that real fish use to distinguish themselves and designed the robot accordingly. These included physical traits (such as shape, color, and markings) and behavioral traits (including acceleration speeds, size of schools, and how the fish move their tails in transit). Taking the project one step further, the researchers designed the robot to learn and adapt from the behavior of the real fish.

“In somes studies, we compared groups composed of only fish with groups composed of fish and robots,” Bonnet said. “We could show that the two are behaving similarly, which shows that the robots are able to act like fish, and integrate groups of fish. We also used other setups, such as a ring-shaped setup, to show that the robotic agents can influence on the swimming direction preference of the fish.”

EPFL researchers have previously done similar work on cockroach communities, which are willing to accept practically anything that emits specific cockroach pheromones. Fish posed a much more difficult task, but Bonnet already sees how the work will shed light on the nuances of their societies.

“We could already learn which features are relevant for the fish for social integration,” he said. “We can also learn the hierarchy in fish societies, if for instance there are some leaders, and what are the important aspects to become a leader in fish groups, and how the fish are collectively taking decisions.”

A paper detailing the research was recently published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

Gaming

Ghost Recon Breakpoint courts content creators with Delta Company

Ghost Recon Breakpoint developers are setting the stage for community engagement with the newly revealed Delta Company. The platform will provide resources for content creators, streamers, tournament organizes, and community managers.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!