Bioinspired devices are helping robotics engineers to solve many problems
Excellent article on how robotic engineers try to copy the abilities of living beings, providing fruitful ground for bioinspired technologies.
Nature just does things better than humans. It is a galling fact for engineers, but it is very often true and, in all honesty, not surprising; given millions of years to work on a problem, the random mutations and gradual change of evolution will often find a solution where mere human ingenuity, even assisted by computers, cannot.
“Companies such as Amazon are looking for new ways to handle items in their warehouses that have a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so a flexible, versatile gripper that self-modifies to handle the variety of objects is of great interest.” – George Whitesides, Harvard University
Mimicking nature’s solutions has, therefore, always been a part of the job of an engineer; and robotics, possibly the most important field where engineers try to copy the abilities of living beings, is providing fruitful ground for bioinspired technologies. Investigating nature’s solutions is the preserve of biologists, but their insights into the often surprising and even seemingly perverse ways that organisms achieve what might seem impossible — such as climbing a sheer, smooth surface — can often give engineers ideas for how to solve completely different problems. For example, no starfish has ever tried to lift a pumpkin, but studying how their feet work and allow them to grasp and manoeuvre their limbs over the complex and textured topologies of coral reefs can lead to robots that can handle awkwardly shaped, delicate objects.
Read the full article.