Robotic Zebrafish Leads Real Fish Away from Danger, Or Can Test Drugs

Two years ago we wrote about a robot fish that could lead schools of fish to safety. The robot was created by Maurizio Porfiri, assistant professor at Brooklyn laboratories at Polytechnic Institute of New York University and was being studied for how to mimic fish movement enough that it could lead a school of fish away from danger such as oil spills or the turbines of power plants.

The work has steadily been improved upon and now, the researchers behind this fishy friend have figured out more of what makes for a good hero with fins.

NYU Poly reports "significant progress in devising methods for leading live fish away from oil spills and other aquatic dangers using a species-specific robotic fish."

They painted their robot like a zebrafish and tested it out, learning exactly under what conditions zebrafish would follow their robot overlord. They found that in general they'll prefer the real thing to the robot, but they'll follow the robot if it isn't too noisy. So, a silent version of the robot will be more effective at guiding fish from danger. They're also interested in adding cameras and enough sense to change its own behavior based on reactions of fish around it.

But rescuing fish from watery dangers isn't the only thing researchers are hopeful to use this robot fish for -- they are also looking in to using it for drug research.

"In addition, Porfiri said, the team wants to explore how it can apply its robotic zebrafish in the biomedicine industry, which already uses live zebrafish as an aquatic analog to mice for testing drugs under development. For example, he postulates, the NYU-Poly robotic zebrafish could provide a reliable stimulus when studying the effect of a drug on social behavior."

Biomimicry never ceases to amaze us.

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