Scientists Use Robots to Get Bees and Fish to Talk to Each

first_imgStay on target Review: ‘Daemon X Machina’ Has Big Robots, Small Fun on Nintendo SwitchThis Robot Is Equal Parts Lawnmower and Snow Blower It sounds straight out of a Disney movie. Scientists found a way to get two different animal species — fish and bees — in two different locations to communicate with each other and reach a shared decision with the help of robots.As part of an experiment led by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), scientists used robots to transmit signals back and forth between bees located in Austria and fish located in Switzerland. The study, which was published in Science Robotics, found that the two species gradually began coordinating their decisions.“We created an unprecedented bridge between the two animal communities, enabling them to exchange some of their dynamics,” said Frank Bonnet, a researcher at EPFL’s Mobile Robots Group (MOBOTS), which has previously designed robots that can blend into groups of animals and influence their behavior.For the study, engineers used robots to “infiltrate” a school of fish in a circular aquarium in Switzerland to get them to swim in a specific direction. The bees, on the other hand, were located in a lab in Graz, Austria and live on a platform with robot terminals on each side which they naturally tend to swarm around.The robots within each group of animals emitted signals specific to that species. The robot in the school of fish emitted both visual signals – in terms of different shapes, colors and stripes – and behavioral signals – like accelerations, vibrations, and tail movements, according to EPFL. The robots in the bee colony emitted signals mainly in the form of vibrations, temperature variations, and air movements.Researchers developed robots to infiltrate a school of fish in an aquarium and get them to swim in a given direction. (Photo Credit: EPFL)Both groups of animals responded to the signals; the fish started swimming in a given direction and the bees started swarming around just one of the terminals.The robots in the two groups recorded the dynamics of each group, exchanged that information with each other, and then translated the information received into signals appropriate for the corresponding species.“The robots acted as if they were negotiators and interpreters in an international conference. Through the various information exchanges, the two groups of animals gradually came to a shared decision,” said Francesco Mondada, a professor at EPFL’s Biorobotics Laboratory (BioRob).The robots in the bee colony emitted signals mainly in the form of vibrations, temperature variations, and air movements. (Photo Credit: EPFL)Not surprisingly, the conversation between the two species were “chaotic” at first. But according to the researchers, the animal groups synchronized after 25 minutes – all the fish swam in a counterclockwise direction and all the bees had swarmed around one of the terminals.They also started influencing each other’s behavior.“The species even started adopting some of each other’s characteristics. The bees became a little more restless and less likely to swarm together than usual, and the fish started to group together more than they usually would,” said Bonnet.The researchers are hoping the study’s findings could help robotics engineers develop an effective way for machines to capture and translate biological signals and also help biologists better understand animal behavior and how individuals within an ecosystem interact.More on’s What Happened When Scientists Left Camera Traps to Record Wild ApesBees Can Do Basic Arithmetic, Study FindsStudy: Some Fish Can ‘Recognize’ Themselves in a Mirrorlast_img