Scientists made bees and fish 'talk' to each other using robots

Staff writer

Scientists have used specially designed robotic interpreters to allow communication between fish and bees.

Robots were introduced to a colony of bees in Austria, and a school of fish in Switzerland, in order to capture signals from the two species and translate them into a language that each could understand.

While a the robotic terminal inside the bees' colony communicated by manipulating air temperature, movement and vibrations, the robot embedded in the school of fish changed colour, speed and directional movements.

Soon enough, the bees began to swarm around the terminal while the fish started to change their swimming patterns.

"The robots acted as if they were negotiators and interpreters in an international conference," Francesco Mondada, a professor at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne's BioRob department, told TechXplore.

"Through the various information exchanges, the two groups of animals gradually came to a shared decision.'

The researchers hope that, rather than just a gimmick, this technology can have real applications in the world of biological research, helping to further the understanding of how and why certain animals interact. It may also help artificially intelligent robots shape animals' and humans' lives for the better. For example, communication robots could steer animals away from polluted or dangerous locations.

"It's the first time that people are using this kind of technology to have two different species communicate with each other," Simon Garnier, a complex systems biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, told The Scientist.

"It's a proof of concept that you can have robots mediate interactions between distant groups."