<figcaption>Robo-staurois under construction. Credit: Photo: Markus Böckle</figcaption>
Robo-staurois under construction. Credit: Photo: Markus Böckle

Peter Narins needed a way to convince real frogs that a male intruder has just hopped into their territory and is croaking boldly. So the animal communication researcher came up with the obvious choice: condoms. In 2000, Narins, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues at the University of Vienna glued a condom to the jaw of a robotic frog equipped with an air pump and speaker. It worked: The condom makes such a believable vocal sac that the robot, despite its immobility, can incite a real frog to spar.

"We actually had two casualties," Narins recalls. Robots were broken during wrestling matches, which Narins says can last up to 15 minutes. "They put their fist right through the condom. I hate when that happens."

Condoms will no longer be an issue for Narins' latest version of a...

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