Bioinspired and Biomimetic systems are the bees knees (sometimes, literally! ).
Other times, creating a biomimetic robot teaches us about nature.
A group of European researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne and Sorbonne report this fall on a project that has created a robot zebrafish (Danio rerio) that joins the school of live zebrafish .
This is actually pretty difficult, because zebrafish are kind of loosey-goosey about schooling, coming together as needed in different situations. Today’s successful zebrafish must pay attention to the other fish, and play nicely with others.
The result is a robot not only looks and swims like a zebrafish, it learns the social signals of the fish, and behaves correctly I.e., it mimics the anatomy, the movement, the behavior, and the social signaling of the natural fish.
This seemingly rather simple result required analysis of how zebrafish school. The researchers developed a two level model, a high level strategy (where the school is going) and a more detailed movement model (how to move in the school).
They also had to quantify the “social integration” achieved by the robot and other fish, which is a measure of how zebrafish-like the robot is, compared to observations of the real zebrafish.
And, of course, they used a fishbot that looks and swims like a zebrafish. For some reason, zebrafish aren’t fooled by a lure that is a very abstract fish shape.
The researchers emphasize that all three forms of mimicry are important for successful schooling. She’s gotta look like a zebrafish, swim like a zebrafish, and follow along like a zebrafish.
These results suggest that it should be possible to create robots that not only join in, but persuade and lead a school via the natural signaling of the fish. Such a robot or group of robots presumably would be a low-stress method to herd fish. (I’m not completely sure why one would need to herd zebrafish, per se.)
This study is pretty awesome.
It does to seem like kind of a one-off case, though. It took a lot of work to observe and model these small groups of zebrafish. It isn’t clear how well these techniques might apply to larger groups, longer time periods, other environments, or other species.
Obviously, it will be useful to automate the learning of the social signals and so on as they suggest. Eventually, this might lead to a theory of fish—metaknowledge of different cognitive models in fish. Now that would be cool.
- J. Amador Guillermo, Matherne Marguerite, Waller D’Andre, Mathews Megha, N. Gorb Stanislav, and L. Hu David, Honey bee hairs and pollenkitt are essential for pollen capture and removal. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 12 (2):026015, 2017. http://stacks.iop.org/1748-3190/12/i=2/a=026015
- Fang Hongbin, Zhang Yetong, and K. W. Wang, Origami-based earthworm-like locomotion robots. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 12 (6):065003, 2017. http://stacks.iop.org/1748-3190/12/i=6/a=065003
- Leo Cazenille, Bertrand Collignon, Yohann Chemtob, Frank Bonnet, Alexey Gribovskiy, Francesco Mondada, Nicolas Bredeche, and José Halloy, How mimetic should a robotic fish be to socially integrate into zebrafish groups ? (accepted). Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 2017 http://iopscience.iop.org/10.1088/1748-3190/aa8f6a
- Zheng, L., M. Behrooz, and F. Gordaninejad, A bioinspired adaptive spider web. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 12 (1):016012, 2017. http://stacks.iop.org/1748-3190/12/i=1/a=016012
PS. Wouldn’t “Biomimetic Robotic Zebrafish” be a good name for a band?