Scientists Create Robot ‘Translators’ for Inter-species

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(— March 22, 2019) — Scientist conducted a unusual experiment in which they were able to direct the movement of bees and fishes, Russia Today reports.

Using micro robots mimicking the movement of a fish and a bee, researchers on the cleverly-named ASSISIbf experiment, were able to instruct the movement of species by controlling the movements of robots. The experiment proved that translated behavioral cues across species lines are possible.

“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 coauthor of the project Francesco Mondada of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.

In the experiment, scientists managed to sync the behavior of bees in Austria with a school of fishe more than 400 miles away in Switzerland. The species were communicating with one another through robot “translators.” The robotic bee copied the movement of bees and translated it to the movement of robotic fish. The two species allegedly understood each other’s behaviors and started moving in a similar pattern.

The experiment was previously done with clusters of cockroaches and chicks that “communicated” through a movement mimicking robot.  

In the latest experiment, scientists were able to command a school of fish to swim in a chosen direction.  This was done by commanding the robot to replicate their behavioral signals – tail movements, accelerations, and vibrations to “persuade” the fish to form a shoal that follows the suggested movements. Meanwhile, the robotic bee communicated to the “fellow” bees through vibrations, temperature variations, and air movements.

The mimicking robots were connected to one another for 25 minutes, translating the information each received from the other into appropriate behavioral signals.

“The species even started adopting some of each other’s characteristics,” Mondada said in École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) video. He added that “The bees became a little more restless and less likely to swarm together than usual, and the fish started to group together more than they usually would.”

The research published in Science: Robotics, suggested their work “may open the door for new forms of artificial collective intelligence…which could find applications in selective ‘rewiring’ of ecosystems.”

On one example of the practical use of the experiment is a way to direct a flock of birds away from airports, or reversing the decline in bee populations.