Biological inspiration is a key design approach for the development of innovative robots. Flapping wings, sensitized robotic skins, insect-inspired compound eyes, and artificial muscles are examples of nature acting as a source of inspiration for the design of novel artificial systems. The heart of successful bioinspired design is the abstraction of the underlying design principles found in biology and their implementation in robotics using state-of-the-art technology. In this article, I introduce the notion of the inspire–abstract–implement (IAI) design flow as a paradigm for biological inspiration in robotics. The article develops the key aspects of the IAI approach and illustrates it on several examples in technology and on a case study of a miniature soft jumping robot. Using a locust-inspired jumping mechanism and a soft exoskeleton allows the robot to jump repetitively with minimal control and only one single actuator. Further, the article discusses how biological inspiration can be a promising perspective for advanced design in the novel field of soft robotics, and it outlines its main design challenges and opportunities.
Soft robots are primarily composed of easily deformable matter such as fluids, gels, and elastomers that match the elastic and rheological properties of biological tissue and organs. Like an octopus squeezing through a narrow opening or a caterpillar rolling through uneven terrain, a soft robot must adapt its shape and locomotion strategy for a broad range of tasks, obstacles, and environmental conditions. This emerging class of elastically soft, versatile, and biologically inspired machines represents an exciting and highly interdisciplinary paradigm in engineering that could revolutionize the role of robotics in healthcare, field exploration, and cooperative human assistance.
The replicator device will enable warfighters to generate disposable optical transmitters in real time, each with a user-specified message. It will be compact, lightweight, and powered by batteries or solar cells. – DARPA website, Chemical Communications Program
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