Understanding Social Interaction in Robots through Behavioral Teleporting

by November 26, 2020 0 comments

Behavioral  Teleporting

Behavioral teleporting consists of real-time transfer of the complete ethogram of live specie onto a remotely-located robotic replica.

Researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering are working on an approach called Behavioral  Teleporting for understanding the social and behavioral interactions between different species, especially humans and robots. The research titled ‘Behavioral Teleporting of Individual Ethograms onto inanimate robots: experiments on social interactions in live Zebrafish” is published in the Cell Press Journal/iScience. 


What is Behavioral  Teleporting?

Professor Maurizio Porfiri of NYU Tandon has devised the new approach of interaction between two separated Zebrafish so that insight regarding influence in social behavior can get drawn. The researchers have used behavioral teleporting as a solution to manipulate underpinning social interactions. Behavioral teleporting consists of real-time transfer of the complete ethogram of live specie onto a remotely-located robotic replica. Researchers have chosen Zebrafish, freshwater specie, for its amenable behavior and to disentangle the gene and environment interactions, whereby their genome is fully sequenced and modifiable through gene-editing procedures. Likewise, Zebrafish has displayed well-documented performance in pharmacological treatments targeting a given biological pathway. Within the field of social interactions, Zebrafish are employed to investigate both normal behaviors and abnormal derailments.

The researchers cite that biologically-inspired robots offer a promising alternative to virtual reality by affording the delivery of physical, easily controllable, three-dimensional stimuli. The new approach is related to two breakthroughs of social interactions. The first one by Bonnet and collaborators demonstrated a link of remote interaction between Zebrafish and honeybees by controlling the zebrafish replica through the spatial density of honeybees and the bee-robot through the swimming direction of Zebrafish. The second demonstration by Larch and Baier explored the possibility of establishing remote social interactions between Zebrafish within a virtual reality setup, wherein projected dots instantaneously replicated the motion of independent subjects located in different tanks.



The System

The researchers have established a setup consisting of two separate tanks, each containing one fish and one robotic replica. An automated tracking system tracked each of the live subjects’ locomotory patterns, which controlled the robotic replica swimming in the other tank. The complete ethogram of each fish was transferred across tanks within a fraction of a second, thus establishing a complex robotics-mediated interaction between two remotely-located live animals. An ethogram is a table of all distinct and independent behaviors of interest observed in the study species so that data collected can be accurate.



Researchers say that they were able to achieve the primary aim of the experiment to demonstrate the capability to transfer the motion of a live fish onto a robotic replica. The new approach was able to maneuver the replica located at the separate tank through an in-house developed robotic platform. The success of the replica mirroring the motion of a live animal was assessed by cross-correlating their trajectories. The results indicated the success of 85% with 95% accuracy at a maximum time-lag smaller than 0.2 s. The high accuracy in replicating fish trajectory was confirmed by equivalent analysis on speed, turn rate, and acceleration. The researchers conclude that behavioral teleporting can preserve natural interaction between two live animals while allowing fine control over morphological features that modulate social behavior.

Maurizio Porfiri states, “Since existing approaches involve the use of a mathematical representation of social behavior for controlling the movements of the replica, they often lead to unnatural behavioral responses of live animals. But because behavioral teleporting ‘copy/pastes’ the behavior of a live fish onto robotic proxies, it confers a high degree of precision with respect to such factors as position, speed, turn rate, and acceleration.”

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