What a fish tale!
Brooklyn brainiacs are building a robotic super fish that would play savior to its aquatic brethren, leading schools of fish away from danger.
Prof. Maurizio Porfiri and his team of researchers at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute have built a school of some 30 plastic critters that look like a fish, swim like a fish - and try to win the affections of their fellow fish and lead them to safety.
“It’s like a sheep dog,” Porfiri said. “You can use them to guide fish away from dangerous areas, or guide fish away from ecological disasters, or guide them away from hydroelectric plants where they could get killed by turbines.”
It’s still got a ways to go before it’s ready for the wild - but Porfiri said that in a few years it will be ready for its inaugural dip in the Gowanus Canal, where he’s running a separate project with buoy robots that test water quality.
The six-inch robots, designed to look like different species of fish, will be available for the public to check out and test Saturday when MetroTech will host an “Innovation Square” as part of the annual World Science Festival - which will also feature a high-tech dance competition, lego robtos, and an “augemented reality” archaeological dig.
The Polytech team’s current experiments with zebra fish and golden shiners focus on what it takes to turn a fish into a leader - whether subtle changes in the robot’s coloring or the motion of its tale will give it more cred with other fish.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder - so the same robot that may draw loyal followers from one species of fish can be used to scare off invasive pest species.
“We can produce a robot that can attract one species and repel another,” said research scholar Giovanni Polverino.
Once it’s fully developed, the robotic fish could play super hero in a disaster like the Gulf oil spill, Porfiri said - and the technology could possibly be replicated for other types of animals.
“If you have an oil spill, the animals there will be in trouble and you may want to lead them away,” he said.