Animals Bow to Their Mechanical Overlords

For Maurizio Porfiri, an engineer at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering who has built a series of robotic fish, protecting wild animals has always been the goal. “My feeling was that all this technology that was inspired by nature, was never utilized in nature itself,” Porfiri says.

Porfiri hopes to develop robotic fish that guide wild fish away from hazards such as oil spills and dams. His work so far suggests that it’s a plausible idea. Using a water tunnel to recreate the conditions fish might face while swimming in a flowing river, he discovered that when a plastic fish robot beats its motorized tail at just the right frequency, live golden shiners swim along behind it.

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