Why would fish follow a robot?

Forget artificial intelligence. How about artificial leadership? A mechanical engineer at New York University is combining smart materials and mathematics to build robots that lead schooling fish.

Someday, Maurizio Porfiri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute, hopes the robots could lead fish away from the turbines of power plants. They also could potentially lead flocking birds to new wintering grounds if their forests have been destroyed, or even herd humans to safety when a fire breaks out.


Fish leaders, according to published report and to Porfiri’s observations, beat their tails faster, mill about, and accelerate to gain attention, gather a school, and lead it.

Using a shallow, donut-shaped tank and cameras, researchers began a mathematical journey into fish schooling in one-dimensional environments. They recently reported their results from this study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Read the full story at futurity.org