Thankfully for what will one day be the most horrifying Hitchcock remake ever, robot birds are nothing new. But now, in order to monitor the effects of climate change, scientists have figured out how to trick real, live penguins into accepting the robotic imposters. And all they had to do was make the fuzziest, most adorable Big Brother you ever did see.
The study, led by Yvon Le Maho at the Univesity of Strasbourg, France, first had to fit 34 king penguins with external heart rate monitors. In order to actually be able to
read the monitors, though, the scientists had to get an RFID antenna within 60 centimetres of our flightless friends. A plain rover was fine with the king penguins, but Emperor penguins are shy, non-territorial birds—so scientists needed a different approach. And the task ultimately fell to a cleverly disguised, cuddly robot. According to Cnet:
The first version, made of fibreglass, scared the birds. The disguise went through about five iterations before the researchers designed a version that didn't scare the penguins — one covered in soft fuzz like a real baby penguin.
In fact, the penguins were so comfortable with the disguise that the chicks huddled against it as they do each other, and the adults sang to it, appearing disappointed when it didn't answer back.
Which is simultaneously adorable and heartbreaking and infuriating (don't trust the robot, you dumb birds, this is how The Penguin Fall begins).
On the other hands, this revelation that penguins are so accepting of mechanical spies will be immensely helpful in studying the affects of climate change on the Arctic birds. From here, researchers will be working on developing a more life-like, adult Emperor penguin robot in terms of both movement and sound.
Just don't say we didn't warn you, penguins. [IBTimes, Cnet]