New York University researchers have developed ‘robotic’ fish that they say could save the lives of thousands of undersea creatures.
The prototypes fool shoals of fish into thinking they are their ‘leader’ and have in tests changed the direction the group swims in.
Researchers say that if deployed into the water, which has been affected by a toxic spill, these robots could lead marine life away from danger.
They could also help them to steer clear of man-made obstacles like undersea turbines.
Developer Dr Maurizio Porfiri said that normally mankind takes inspiration from nature to improve itself, but this time he wanted to better the lot of aquatic animals.
“Studies of schools of fish, flocks of birds and herds of animals have inspired robotic systems designed for our own applications,” the Daily Mail quoted Porfiri as saying.
“But I wanted to see if I could close the gap, bringing some of those benefits back into the natural world. Schooling fish have a rich system of information sharing,” he told Livescience.com.
“They decide when to school based on a wide variety of factors, including vision and pressure cues from other fish. By studying these cues, we can learn how school members recognise - and follow - a leader.”
Tests showed that the robot was able to track, follow and mill with the other fish in such as way as to influence their behaviour.
As of now, Porfiri has only been able to design creatures, which swim on the surface of the water, but he hopes to soon make models which can dive and resurface.