Now there are robot fish.
Thankfully, unlike the dog-like atrocity produced by Boston Dynamics (this is how we die), the fish are kind of cute.
They’re called Bluebots and were created by researchers at Harvard University as the latest entry into a field of science called swarm robotics.
The idea is to get machines to swarm, which sounds a lot more terrifying than it actually is.
By getting the little fish to swarm, in a way that imitates real fish in the wild, roboticists can gain insight into ways to improve everything from self-driving cars, to the robots that may one day prepare Mars for human habitation.
WIRED explains that the fish use eyeball cameras, which give them close to 360-degree vision, to search for the two blue LEDs on other Bluebots, which are situated 86 millimetres apart.
If a neighbor is close, those two LEDs will appear to be far apart; if a neighbor is far away, the LEDs will appear to be closer. (The robot doesn’t roll or pitch, so the LEDs are always stacked vertically.)
“Just by observing how far or close they are in a picture, they know how far or close the robot must be in the real world,” says Harvard biologist Florian Berlinger, lead author on a new paper in Science Robotics describing the work. “That’s the trick we play here.”
Once the robot fish have identified the positions of their fellow fish, Berlinger and his team can then feed this positional information into simple algorithms to guide the behaviour of seven Bluebots dropped into a tank.
“The rule was: If there is at least one robot in front of you, you turn slightly to the right,” says Berlinger. “If there is no robot in front of you, you turn slightly to the left.” One by one, the Bluebots fall into line.
Check it out:
You can read more about the complex technical workings of the Bluebots here.
I’m just throwing this out there, but if they’re looking to make some cash to fund their research, they might want to consider putting the fish on the market for parents who don’t trust their children to take care of living pets.
I’m sure there are a few out there who would love to avoid having to explain why the toilet is the gateway to fish heaven.
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