Excellent article on how robotic engineers are influenced by the abilities of living beings, providing fruitful ground for biologically inspired 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.
“the combination of systems of sensors, muscles and brain – that allow a squid to control its tentacles are still beyond us. All we’re doing is trying to understand the mechanics of a tentacle to the extent that we can mimic some of its characteristics.” – 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 maneuver 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.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he find it attached to the rest of the world.