Zoologists filmed how a robot bird teaches live chicks to sing

Scientists have created a robot to teach zebra finches to sing. Leiden University reports.

Zoologists know that the singing of many young birds resembles the babbling of babies. They hear the singing of other birds, memorize it and gradually learn the full vocalization of their species. “To figure out when and how birds learn to sing, the researchers basically played the sounds of the birds through speakers. Sometimes the image on the screen was added to this. However, singing includes much more, for example, movements of the beak and throat, as well as posture. Perhaps that is why young birds learn worse from a speaker than from another bird, ”the scientists say.

In this regard, Katharina Riebel and her colleagues created a robot that would teach singing for research purposes. To do this, they filmed the singing of a real adult male with high-speed cameras, converted it into a 3D computer model and made a moving robot based on it. With its movements, it resembles a living bird, and the voice recording is synchronized with gestures and posture. The device was named RoboFinch.

“They come up, perch next to the robot bird and chirp. More importantly, the young birds sit still and study RoboFinch when it starts to move and we turn on the sounds of singing. It seems like they are really listening to the robot! This proves that we can use RoboFinch in our bird learning studies. In particular, we will find out whether it is really important to visually observe the process of singing in order to learn how to do the same, ”the authors explain

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