Catching fish just got a whole lot easier. Researchers at NYU-Poly’s Dynamical Systems Laboratory have found that schools of golden shiners have no problem letting robot fish take over leadership roles when it comes to schooling, as long as the bots don’t look (or act) in ways that strike the fish as, you know, fishy.
Yeah, I went there.
Professor Maurizio Porfiri and his colleagues figured out that the real fish decide whether or not to school based on visual cues as well as how the water is moving. If the conditions are right, the fish will look for a big, decisive fish to follow, and they don’t care at all if that fish is a robot. This particular robot fish uses ionic polymers that swell and shrink in response to electrical stimulation to power its tail, resulting in reliable, silent, lifelike motion.
Researchers suggest that this technology could be used to steer schools of fish away from hydroelectric turbines. And, you know, that’s nice and all, but let’s think outside the tank for a minute… We now have the capability to use robots to control schools of fish. We have come to a point, as a society, where we can choose to use these powers for good, or for evil. Will fish robots lead schools of mackerel into out nets to feed humanity, or will they lead schools of piranhas into our swimming pools to kill us all? Either way, I smell a feature film.