Animals vs Electronics

Watch animals of all sizes attack, lick, befriend, and otherwise interact with electronic devices

3 min read
A close-up photo of a praying mantis that appears to be taking a selfie.
Photo: Dhyesley B. Gomes

It’s a quiet week here at IEEE Spectrum, so we wanted to give loyal readers something fun to chew on. For an end-of-year treat, enjoy this photo-video compilation of animals interacting with gadgets. 

With more electronic devices in the world than ever before, domestic and wild animals can’t help but run up against these strange-looking objects in their daily lives. And how they react to a device says a lot about how they perceive it—as a type of food, a potential threat, or a new friend. 


In 2016, IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Evan Ackerman reported that the Dutch National Police was training eagles to capture problematic drones in mid-air. A few weeks ago, he found out the program was cancelled, partly because “there just wasn’t a lot of demand for the anti-drone eagle squad.” 

A GIF shows an eagle attacking a drone in mid-air. Gif: Dutch National Police/Guard From Above/IEEE Spectrum


Earlier this year, Ackerman took his GoPro on a snorkeling trip in the Galapagos Islands. It must have looked pretty tasty to this sea lion.   

A GIF shows a sea lion swimming up to a camera underwater and opening its mouth to try to eat it. Gif: Evan Ackerman


In Indonesia, Ackerman captured this curious Komodo dragon, which uses its forked tongue to smell, licking the camera.  

A GIF shows a Komodo dragon licking a camera on a beach. Gif: Evan Ackerman


The roboticists at Boston Dynamics unveiled an autonomous quadruped named Spot in 2015. Here, a brave dog named Fido confronts Spot in a parking lot and refuses to concede any territory to the intruder.


In this video, a cat named Mochi meets the BB-8 Star Wars droid made by Sphero. Mochi is mildly interested and pats it a few times, which is really all you can ask of a cat.


However, as has been chronicled in many, many YouTube videos, cats do seem to love to ride Roombas.

But why should cats have all the fun? This hedgehog has its own set of wheels.


A fierce Pomeranian named Snuggles really does not trust remote controls, and wants to make that very, very clear.


When an elephant finds a camera disguised as a rock, she picks it up and brings it along for a stroll, capturing footage of her own tusk. And when she drops it, a baby elephant grabs it and starts filming.    


Researchers made a fuzzy penguin rover that could infiltrate a waddle (or group) of penguins to study them up close. The scientists found that using the penguin rover reduced stress among the penguins compared to when human researchers tried to observe their behavior at close range.


People clearly enjoy taking selfies and maybe animals do, too. This praying mantis certainly seems to like the spotlight.

A close-up photo of a praying mantis that appears to be taking a selfie. Photo: Dhyesley B. Gomes

And this cat named Manny has an Instagram account wholly devoted to the selfies it takes with its human and animal friends. 

An outdoor photo of a cat with a dog on either side. The cat appears to be holding the camera and taking a selfie.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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