This Robot Interacts With Fish Like It's One of Them

A tiny robot in the shape of a fish has been created by scientists. The robot is so realistic it was adopted by the fish providing valuable research material for the scientists.
Jessica Miley

A new tiny robot is helping scientists study the social interactions of fish. The miniature robot is designed to mimic a zebrafish and is so good, it has been adopted by schools of fish in the research lab. The study is being undertaken by researchers at the Swiss University École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) led by Professor Francesco Mondada, Post-doctorate student Frank Bonnet a key figure on the research team describes the idea behind study: “We created a kind of ‘secret agent’ that can infiltrate these schools of small fish." The zebrafish robot is just seven centimeters long and modeled with the same shape and movements as it fleshy counterparts. It works by sitting in a small stand that is operated by a robot underneath the aquarium the maneuvers the underwater robot using magnets.

Zebrafish were chosen by the scientists as they are a tough species who move in schools with lots of changes of direction. The research using the robot aims to shed more light on the way these fish interact with each other and their environment. But the lab's main focus was to develop these types of micro-robots to be used in biological studies. The researchers were delighted to find that the zebrafish's behavior did not change at all with the addition of the spy robot. “The fish accepted the robot into their schools without any problem. And the robot was also able to mimic the fish’s behavior, prompting them to change direction or swim from one room to another," says Bonnet.