Biometric animals have been a major part of the animal research for many years. Researchers use robotic animals to study animal movements and behavior in their natural habitat. Animals in the real world observe and respond to the robots, allowing researchers to gather information about how they interact. Researchers from the lab of Mauizio Porfiri, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, have developed a way for the robots to now watch the animals which could further help researchers study animals.
The team has developed real-time tracking software and the first closed-loop control system for a bio-inspired robot that can interact with animals. They tested the robotics by putting them in a tank with live zebrafish. This robot can see the animal, and copy its behavior.
During the study, the robots and the zebrafish were separated by a transparent panel. The zebrafish showed more interaction and minimal signs of fear with the robotic fish that mirrored the animal’s behavior.
The mirroring was only basic social interaction, but it is a huge step towards studying animal interactions.
"This form of mirroring is a very simple social behavior, in which the replica seeks only to stay as close as possible to the live animal. But this is the baseline for the types of interactions we're hoping to build between animals and robots," Porfiri said. "We now have the ability to measure the response of zebrafish to the robot in real time, and to allow the robot to watch and maneuver in real time, which is significant."
The researchers hope to further develop this technology to have smoother interactions with the real animals in the future. This could lead to breakthroughs in how animals interact in their natural environments.
A paper on this research was published in Scientific Reports.