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Robotic squirrel used to study real-life squirrel behavior, steal nuts

Nilay Patel

Most of the squirrels on our college campus were massive, hyper-intelligent little beasts that were best dealt with by vigilant avoidance, but it looks like Hampshire College professor Sarah Partan is taking the opposite approach, using a robotic squirrel named "Rocky" to interact with the local rodents up close. Rocky is controlled wirelessly from a laptop, and can realistically move his tail and body to communicate with other squirrels, as well as play pre-recorded squirrel noises from built-in speakers. The goal is to study how animals communicate, and it looks like Rocky's doing a good job -- the local squirrels seem to respond to him just like any other. That's pretty impressive for a bot (or pretty weak for the squirrels, depending on your point of view), but we're just waiting for Partan and her team to discover the shocking truth: that the squirrels are really studying them.

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