Behavioural Teleporting to Understand Social Interaction in Robots


Behavioural Teleporting is an approach used for understanding the social and behavioral interactions between different species, especially humans and robots. The scholars at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering are on research named ‘Behavioral Teleporting of Individual Ethograms onto inanimate robots. It consists of a set of experiments on social interactions in live Zebrafish, and it is published in the Cell Press Journal/iScience.

What is Behavioral Teleporting?

A new approach to experiment the interaction between two separated Zebrafish was done by Professor Maurizio Porfiri of NYU Tandon to observe the insight regarding how the influence in social behavior can be obtained. The researchers have adopted behavioral teleporting as a solution for manipulating underpinning social interactions. Real-time transfer of the entire sequential ethogram of a live specimen onto a remotely-located robotic replica. Researchers have chosen Zebrafish, a freshwater species for its controlled behavior and to extract the gene and its environment interactions, whereby their gene is fully sequenced and modifiable through gene-editing procedures.

The researchers state that biologically-inspired robots will be a promising alternative to virtual reality by affording the delivery of physical, easily controllable, three-dimensional stimuli. It is related to two breakthroughs of social interactions. The first demonstration conducted by two researchers Bonnet and collaborators showed a remote interaction between Zebrafish & honeybees by controlling the zebrafish replica through the spatial density of honeybees and the bee-robot through the swimming direction of the both Zebrafish. The next demonstration by Larch and Baier further explored the maximum possibility to re-establish a remote social interaction between Zebrafish within a virtual reality setup, wherein projected dots instantaneously duplicated the motion of independent subjects located in different tanks.

The System

The analysis was made using an Ethogram, which is a table of all distinct and independent behaviors of interest observed in the study species. The data collected can be accurate. The experimental setup was made with two separate tanks, both containing one fish and one robotic replica. Locomotory patterns of each of the live subjects were tracked using an automated tracking system, which further controlled the robotic fish replica swimming in the other tank.


As per the researchers, the primary aim of the experiment was to demonstrate the capability to transfer the motion of a live fish onto a robotic replica and they were able to achieve. The research was able to bring out the replica located at the separate tank through an in-house developed robotic platform. The success rate was 85% and 95% accuracy at a maximum time-lag smaller than 0.2 s. Researchers concluded that behavioral teleporting process can preserve natural interaction between any two live animals while allowing natural control over morphological features that modulate social behavior.


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