Researchers Send Robotic Penguin Babies In To Monitor Real Penguins

As we approach the coming AI singularity, it will be important for the robots to move among us to track us undetected. If this article in Nature Methods is any indication, they will do this by dressing up a small four-wheeled rover as a facsimile of a baby George Clooney and, as paparazzi snap away, the robot will tag us using RFID chips and carry some of us away for study.

That’s all in the future, though, so we’ll have to settle for the cutest penguin video on TechCrunch today. Researchers studying nesting penguins found that they caused a lot of commotion when they, as humans, tried to move in to track massive colonies. They then tried a small wheeled robot with built-in RFID readers and GPS but that also stressed the birds. Finally they put a fluffy little penguin doll on top of the robot which now was easily able to blend in with other birds and even huddled for warmth among the baby peng-pengs.

The researchers wrote:

To more broadly assess the utility of such rovers in colonial breeding birds, we tested the effect of rover approaches on emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), which are nonterritorial inside their colonies. Of the 158 birds tested, 44 individuals (28%) reacted with alertness, and the tests were immediately halted; 75 (47%) displayed no reaction at all; and 39 (25%) demonstrated curiosity toward the rover by approaching and investigating it. But when the rover was camouflaged with a penguin model, all adult and chick emperor penguins allowed it to approach close enough for an electronic identification. Chicks and adults were even heard vocalizing at the camouflaged rover, and it was able to infiltrate a crèche without disturbance.

That’s right: by dressing a remote-controlled car up like a baby, adult and chick penguins were totally cool with a robotic interloper. Perhaps the same tricks can be used by entrepreneurs who can dress up a robot in a t-shirt and jeans and infiltrate hackathons to find potential technical co-founders? After all, the species Rubyonrailsius Non-Googleemployeeus is fairly rare and skittish in the Valley.

via Spectrum