Robotics has come a long way in the last year. We have robot dolphins created to protect wild dolphins from captivity; Ice-built robots built to explore distant planets; and a robot dance party that was just great. These robots can help explore even the most polluted places and now a new robot has been unveiled for that purpose – and it came with friends. In a new study published in Science Robotics, a team of researchers has created the world’s first synchronized shoal of fish-robots, which need no external control to go together as a unit. Bots are not only impressively realistic, but they are also quite adorable.
Harvard John A. a team from the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Vice Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering called their creation Blueswarm. Florian Berlinger, a Candidate at SEAS and Wyss and first author of the paper, said in a statement, “Robots are often deployed in areas that are inaccessible or dangerous to humans, places where human intervention may not even be possible.” “In this situation, getting a highly autonomous robot waterlogged is a real benefit. Using the built-in rules and 3D visual perception, we’ve been able to create a system that has a high degree of autonomy and flexibility in “underwater sinks that don’t have access to things like GPS and WiFi.”
Truly, creating robots that mimic school fish is not an easy feat. Despite the occasional presence of thousands of fish in a single group, they can collectively move and change direction as if they were the same organism. They do this without any contact between them, instead of using spatial awareness and the position of their co-swimmers to decide their next step. Therefore, researchers not only needed to create autonomous robots that could happily swim through a 3D medium, but the robots also needed to be aware of each other and coordinate their movements.
To achieve this, each Bluebot is equipped with two cameras and three blue LED lights. The cameras detect the presence of light around them and thus the presence of a Blue bot and determine their distance and direction.
Berlinger said, “Every Bluebot responds explicitly to the location of neighbors.” “So, if we want to assemble the robots, each Bluebot will calculate the position of each of its neighbors and move toward the center. If we want to spread the robots, the Bluebots works the opposite way. A school in a circle, they turn the lights directly in front of them clockwise, is programmed to follow.
Although it is a technology in childhood and is currently in the early stages of prototyping, fishing can have many practical implications. A sprawling school of fish-bots could provide advanced search capabilities compared to current technology, resulting in much less time being covered. The team is now hoping that Blueswarm could be further improved into more robots that can help monitor fragile ecosystems with minimal intrusion, much needed in a mix as many coral walls continue to deteriorate.