Robotics engineers from Lausanne implemented a complex and curious experiment: they forced the zebrafish aquarium fish to take the robot for one of them. The task with many unknowns – the machine needed to learn not only to imitate the behavior of a particular species of fish, but also on the fly to study the device, psychology and tactics of the work of the pack. Experts overfulfilled the task, the robot eventually took the place of the leader of a flock of fish.
With a robot body length of only 7 cm, designers decided to leave only the mechanisms for mimicry inside. In motion, the machine is driven by an external antenna, which, through a magnetic field, is connected to a micro-motor under the bottom of the aquarium. And he drags the robot through the thickness of the water at the command of the controller – it remains only to wag his tail, imitating swimming.
The robot has the same proportions, shape and color as the real zebrafish, but it was made a bit larger. It varies the speed of movement and maneuver, can vibrate and maintain different rhythms of movement, remaining in the pack. At the initial stage, the robot watched the fish and tried to imitate them – they easily accepted it for their kindred.
Then the experiment was complicated and the robot spent many hours with ten different schools of fish, swimming in aquariums with different architectures, including full underwater labyrinths. And when the system of machine learning was typed “mind-reason,” it began to gradually influence the flock, provoking the fish to swim in the given direction.
Bottom line: Swiss robotics have proved that the creation of autonomous robotic systems for deep integration into the real living world is a matter of time and technology, nothing more.