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adorable fish robot form school

These Adorable Fish Robots Form Schools Like the Real Thing


Seven little Bluebots gently swim around a darkened tank in a Harvard University lab, spying on one another with great big eyes made of cameras. They're on the lookout for the two glowing blue LEDs fixed to the backs and bellies of their comrades, allowing the machines to lock on to one another and form schools, a complex emergent behavior arising from surprisingly simple algorithms. With very little prodding from their human engineers, the seven robots eventually arrange themselves in a swirling tornado, a common defensive maneuver among real-life fish called milling. Bluebot is the latest entry in a field known as swarm robotics, in which engineers try to get machines to, well, swarm. And not in a terrifying way, mind you: The quest is to get schools of Bluebots to swarm more and more like real fish, giving roboticists insights into how to improve everything from self-driving cars to the robots that may one day prepare Mars for human habitation.