Cute robots are helping us secretly record animal behavior like never before.

Imagine you're a dolphin, swimming in the ocean, talking to your dolphin BFFs about how great fish are or whatever dolphins talk about.

"Man, I could really go for a steak sometime, you know?" Image from Serguei S. Dukachev/Wikimedia Commons.


Then, suddenly, this weird little dude comes whirring up to you:

Image from John Downer Productions, used with permission.

This isn't some weird animal NSA project — this robot puffer fish is one of a growing handful of robotic spy animals researchers and filmmakers are unleashing into the wild.

At first glance, robot animals just look really funny.

Like this robo-tuna.

"GLUG!" Image from John Downer Productions, used with permission.

OK, and they're kinda cute.

Like this robo-turtle.

"'SUP, DUDES???" Image from John Downer Productions, used with permission.

But they're an incredibly useful way for humans to get close to wild animals without, you know, getting too close to wild animals.

Image from lin padgham/Flickr.

Emperor penguins, for instance, will panic and run away if a human gets too close.

This was a big problem for Dr. Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg. Back in 2014, he wanted to measure the heart rates of wild penguins, but he couldn't get close without panicking the animals.

So, instead, his team hit on something a little uncanny:

"Don't mind me. Totally normal penguin coming through." GIF from IBTimes.

It took a few tries to get the design right, but by using the little robo-spy penguin instead, the birds remained chill (and even sang songs to their visitor), and the researchers were able to get the data and footage they needed.

These robo-spy animals also help humans stay safe — whether they're doing research or filming documentaries.

While penguins will run away if approached, there are some other animals who are a little too...

GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

...rambunctious for humans to get close to safely.

"Cameramen can only get so close," says Rob Pilley, a zoologist and producer for John Downer Productions.

In filming "Polar Bears: Spy on the Ice," the team opted to create cameras camouflaged as snowballs (above) and icebergs. Though a few cameras had to be sacrificed for the project (polar bears love to chew on unusual objects), the filmmakers were able to get amazing close-up footage of the polar bears that would've been near impossible to get otherwise.


Ever wanted to know what a polar bear's breath smells like? GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

Thanks to these robo-spies, we've been able to film, measure, and discover things we've never seen before.

Pilley's team documented dolphins working together with rays to hunt fish and using seaweed like feather boas, for example. They also recorded dolphins playing with — and maybe even getting high off of — toxic puffer fish.

Just say no to puffer fish, kids. Image from Leszek Leszczynski/Flickr.

These robo-spies could even help save endangered species.

Vultures don't have the best PR, but they're actually an amazingly important clean-up crew and help keep environments healthy. Unfortunately, a lot of them are dying off.

To help preserve the species, tech company Microduino and the International Centre for Birds of Prey are planning to secretly slip 3D-printed robo-eggs into the nests of endangered vulture species. The eggs will be packed with tiny sensors that will relay data to scientists who can use the information the eggs record, like temperature and humidity, to create better artificial incubators for endangered vulture species.

And because the eggs look identical, the vultures will be none the wiser to their scientific visitors (and much happier than if a scientist tried to poke their big, human face in there)!

A vulture investigates a spy-egg prototype. GIF from Microduino Studio/YouTube.

The egg is still in prototype phase, but the team is excited.

"If this project succeeds, we can transfer the same technology to help save other species around the world," Microduino CEO Bin Feng told Upworthy.

So yeah, robot animal spies are kind of funny-looking.

"Fwoosh." GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

But they're also super cool and innovative tools we can use to help keep animals alive and learn more about the world around us.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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