Researchers at The Polytechnic Institute of New York University explored the interactions of zebrafish with a robotic-fish that autonomously observed and adapted to the live fish's motion. An experimental setup was designed to allow the robotic-fish to change the movement of its tail as the fish approached or receded in the tank. Like a trained leader, a robotic-fish that beat its tail faster as zebrafish moved closer and slower as they swam away was found to be the most preferred by zebrafish.
A robotic fish was placed in a compartment next to one containing a live zebrafish. The preference of the live fish was indicated by the average time spent on each side of the tank; either close to or further away from the robot-fish. The tail-beating of the robotic-fish was controlled in real-time based on feedback from fish motion; what is called a closed-loop control system.
This study has demonstrated that real-time visual feedback from the robotic-fish has a significant role in attracting live zebrafish and influencing their behaviour. Introducing robots in the wild may open new horizons for conservation studies, wherein closed-loop control can be used to manipulate the response of live subjects.