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Robots that can be accepted by animals as conspecifics are great tools for behavioral biology. Indeed, every element of robotic behavior can be programmed and controlled thus we can test response of animals to various signals emitted by robots. This gives an opportunity to address more interesting question on the individual and collective level than the traditional study of behavior by observation. Our research group participated in several research projects on animal-robot interaction.
Before joining the Laboratory of Robotic Systems Dr. Mondada was a local EPFL coordinator of the FET project Leurre within the Autonomous System Laboratory. The Leurre project (September 1, 2002 to August 31, 2005) was dealing with animal-machine interaction between robots and cockroaches. In this pioneering example of mixed society of cockroaches and robots, the robots were accepted as members of the animal society, could participate to the social decisions and could influence the social decisions and thus the animal behavior. For more details see the Leurre project website.
Mixed society of robots and vertebrates
In this Swiss National Science Foundation funded project the goal was to study group behavior of young chicks of the domestic chicken by using autonomous mobile robot. The interaction between the robot and animals was based on the visual feedback. This project demonstrated the example of a mixed group of vertebrates and autonomous robots interacting with each other and where animals accept robots as members of the group.
The goal of this project is to make a robot that can be socially integrated into a fish school, that is, accepted by animals as a member of the group and able to interact with the animals by using relevant communication channels. An intended purpose of such a robot is to be a tool in studies of social and collective animal behavior that demand "insider" capabilities, that is, the use of artificial agents considered by the animals as group-mates. We chose the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model animal, since it is one of the most important vertebrate model organisms in genetics, developmental biology, neurophysiology and biomedicine.