Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University have created a robotic fish that have been accepted as leader by real fish:
The researchers designed their bio-inspired robotic fish to mimic the tail propulsion of a swimming fish, and conducted experiments at varying tail beat frequencies and flow speeds.
In nature, fish positioned at the front of a school beat their tails with greater frequency, creating a wake in which their followers gather.
The followers display a notably slower frequency of tail movement, leading researchers to believe that the followers are enjoying a hydrodynamic advantage from the leaders’ efforts.
In an attempt to create a robotic leader, Marras and Porfiri placed their robot in a water tunnel with a golden shiner school.
First, they allowed the robot to remain still, and unsurprisingly, the “dummy” fish attracted little attention.
When the robot simulated the familiar tail movement of a leader fish, however, members of the school assumed the behavior patterns they exhibit in the wild, slowing their tails and following the robotic leader.
The researchers posit that robotic leaders could help lead fish and other wildlife that behave collectively — including birds — away from toxic situations such as oil or chemical spills or human-made dangers such as dams.
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