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Robots Enable Communication Between Fish, Bees

Robots Enable Communication Between Fish, Bees

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019 - 07:45
A bee collects pollen from a dandelion blossom on a lawn in Klosterneuburg, Austria. Photo by Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters
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In a new experiment, researchers managed to get two extremely different animal species located far apart to interact with each other and reach a shared decision with the help of robots.

Bees and fish don't often have the occasion to meet, nor would they have much to say to each other, however, engineers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and four other European universities were able to get groups of bees and fish to communicate with each other. The bees were located in Austria and the fish in Switzerland. Through robots, the two species transmitted signals back and forth to each other and gradually began coordinating their decisions.

The website quoted Frank Bonnet, a researcher at EPFL's Mobile Robots Group (MOBOTS), saying: "We created an unprecedented bridge between the two animal communities, enabling them to exchange some of their dynamics."

Researchers at MOBOTS have designed robots that can blend into groups of animals and influence their behavior. They have tested their robots on communities of cockroaches, chicks and, more recently, fish. One of these "spy" robots was able to infiltrate a school of fish in an aquarium and get them to swim in a given direction. According to the German News Agency, engineers took the fish experiment by connecting the robot and school of fish with a colony of bees in a laboratory in Graz, Austria.

The robots in the bee colony emitted signals in the form of vibrations, temperature variations and air movements, while the robot in the school of fish emitted signals in terms of different shapes, colors and stripes. 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 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 Professor Francesco Mondada.

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