What happens when you get some normally social fish tanked (ha!) and introduce them to a new robotic friend?
Not a whole lot, actually, but a few scientists are really excited about it, anyway.
[Scientists] placed a biomimetic robot modeled to have the same color pattern and movement as a fertile female zebrafish in with non-robotic zebrafish to see how they would react.
Earlier experiments with the robotic fish have shown that zebrafish are a pretty social bunch, and they’ve consistently shown an affinity for their new robotic pal. To test how alcohol affects things, three groups of fish were given varying degrees of ethanol in their water.
...The sober tank reacted to the robotic fish as expected, by buddying up next to it. The tanks with the alcohol however, tended to shy away from the robot, spending more time in different areas of the tank. That breaks with conventional wisdom that drunk humans will hit on just about anything, even robots.
The news here, though, is that robots are great for these kinds of behavioral studies. As one of the researchers explains, "The traditional stimulus in these experiments is another animal, but individual variations can affect the results. Robotic fish don’t feel fatigue. Their tail beat frequency never changes. Every time we introduce the stimulus, it’s identical, making the results much cleaner...The innovation here is the method—we’ve taken one of the elements of experimentation that can vary, and standardized it.” [Geekosystem, NYU-Poly]