Mechanical engineer Maurizio Porfiri wants to build robots that can herd fish like sheepdogs. Sound fishy? He's farther along than you might expect. A few years ago, Porfiri, a mechanical engineer at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, discovered real fish would mill about and follow his robotic fish
. And since then, he's been trying to understand why. In a recent study
, he found that how the robot flaps its tail seems to be part of the secret to being a leader of fishes. It's not about how the robot looks, but how the robot makes fish feel.