Robotics Gone Wild: 8 Animal-Inspired Machines

...

Millennials know exactly what they want and expectations are high - very high. They are empowered

If you want a glimpse of the future of robotics, start by looking at our biological past and present. Here are eight robots that borrow aspects of animal physiology, which has been honed through eons of Darwinian user testing.

Among programmers, there's a principle called DRY, which stands for "Don't repeat yourself." It's an attempt to avoid writing code that duplicates the function of other code.

DRY embodies the same resistance to needless repetition as the more common idiom, "Don't reinvent the wheel."

Among those making robots, a group that includes software and hardware engineers attempts to adhere to these principles, as can be seen in designs that borrow from nature, from the evolved forms of life on Earth.

Biomimicry and bioinspired design provide a way to avoid reinventing the wheel. The biological systems of living things have been honed through eons of Darwinian user testing.

Borrowing aspects of animal physiology isn't the only option or necessarily the best option for robot designers. For some purposes, something new may be necessary. For others, biomechanically systems can't be easily duplicated.

As MIT's Biomimetic Robot Lab notes on its website, "The complexity of the foot structure with its neuromuscular control" isn't easily duplicated with current technology.

Modelling artificial systems after natural ones can be a shortcut to mechanisms that work well enough. So popular is this approach that it has its own journal, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. Among the robots discussed therein is the GoQBot, modelled after a caterpillar that can form its body into a wheel when it needs to roll.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply be the wheel?

Matthew Travers, a systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, in a phone interview said bioinspired and biomimetic systems have their place. "It's a good approach," he said. "Ultimately, there's a lot of variability in terms of approaches."

In the lab where Travers works, the focus is mobility and biological systems have a lot to offer there. "As far as mobility is concerned, bioinspiration is an obvious route to cake," he said.

Asked where nature might not be the best guide for engineering, Travers recounted remarks made by UC Berkeley professor Bob Full, director of the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory and Center for interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration in Education and Research (CiBER), as well as the editor-in-chief of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

[See The Rise Of The Bots: 11 Ways Your Business Can Prepare.]

Full, in an email, said Travers had captured the spirit of what he'd said but offered a more complete quote: "We should not blindly copy Nature. We must translate the principles and analogies from Nature that are advantageous, and integrate them with best human engineering to design something better than Nature. The largest bird's wingspan was about 30 feet, so I couldn't fly here on it. Planes go far beyond Nature's abilities."

"Our building blocks as engineers are fundamentally different that those of nature," said Travers.

In Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature (William Morrow, 1997), Janine Benyus wrote, "Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based on not what we can extract from nature, but what we can learn from her." By copying nature's designs, she observes, we have solar cells inspired by leaves, perennial grains inspired by tallgrass, and durable ceramics inspired by mother-of-pearl.

Nature still has much to teach us as we strive to improve on its designs. For roboticists, George Santayana's famous admonition, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," should be rephrased, "Those who study the past have the privilege to borrow from it."

Here are a few of the many biologically-inspired robots that have been developed in recent years. And there are many more to come.

Categories
APPLICATIONS
0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Captcha image


RELATED BY

  • 5300c769af79e

    Apple's Project Titan Focuses On Autonomous Driving Software

    They are empowered Apple is bulking up its and sharpening the focus of its Project Titan team with the hiring of Dan Dodge, the former head of BlackBerry's automotive software division.Following the appointment of Bob Mansfield, the veteran Apple hardware engineer, as the of lead Project Titan -- the company's self-driving electric vehicle initiative -- comes a report that the tech giant may be shifting its focus to software as the project moves forward.
  • 5300c769af79e

    The Show: Episode 114 – New Nexus Thoughts and Pokémon GO Madness

    On this episode of The Droid Life Show, we plan on tackling the latest intel that has surfaced regarding upcoming Nexus devices from Google, sharing our final take on the OnePlus 3 (final review here), as well as discussing our take on the current Pokémon GO craziness that has taken the mobile gaming world by storm.Join us at 1:00PM Pacific (4:00PM Eastern) for the fun.
  • 5300c769af79e

    8 Business Benefits of Adopting DevOps

    Many of the arguments in favor of adopting DevOps approaches focus on the benefits that the IT department can experience as a result.Based on a survey of 1,770 senior business and IT executives worldwide, the study identified eight key business benefits that organizations experienced after adopting DevOps practices.
  • 5300c769af79e

    The First 72-Hours: How to Approach the Initial Hours of a Security Incident

    Download In this white paper, Fidelis Cybersecurity outlines key steps to take in the first 72 hours of detecting an alert, how to distinguish what type of incident you are facing and the key differences on how respond.Based on our firsthand experience, we provide lessons learned from the front lines to explain why it is important to identify what type of incident you are responding to.