KangaRobot: How Animals Inspire Machines
Through long-term evolutionary processes, animals have developed innate advantages in locomotion, cognition, information processing and control. Inspired by their evolution, biomimetic robots are integrated with biological characteristics which give them more powerful motor and cognitive abilities and more delicate control processes than other robots. The behavioural characteristics of these robots can be accurately controlled and are easier to handle than real animals. These robots also have an important influence on the cognitive behaviours and the nervous systems of animals.
Modern scientists and engineers increasingly take their inspiration from animals to create new robots. One of the latest inventions is bionic animal robots, which are being manufactured by a German automation giant Festo. Its bionic menagerie ranges from a transforming spider that rolls or creeps, robotic fish, a hopping bionic kangaroo and a semi-autonomous bat-like robot. The Bionic Flying Fox is an ultra-lightweight flying object with intelligent kinematics. The robot simulates the movement of a flying fox almost identically. This mimic’s flying membrane is wafer-thin and ultralight with a honeycomb structure. They have endowed the fox with an infra-red sensor system that transmits data around the surrounding space wirelessly, so it can fly in semi-automatic mode.
Similarly, specialists from the University of Twente in Netherlands with Clear Flight Solutions has created a ‘Robird’ to provide a higher level of security at Edmonton airport in Canada. It is a drone with the appearance of a falcon. The robot imitates a raptor in the sky and real birds don’t dare approach for fear of the predator. Therefore, the self-preservation instinct prevents them from flying near the airports. Another interesting biomimic is a snake-like robot called Eelume, a flexible underwater robot developed by Norwegian specialists. This snake robot does maintenance work on the seabed, making it a game changer within subsea engineering. Surgeons plan to use snake robots to enter the body for more accurate surgery by crawling through your nose or urethra.
Robot-inspired biology led NASA researchers to rethink the design of the Mars rover for an exploratory mission to Europa. The rover looks like a squid with electrodynamic power scavenging process. i.e., their tentacles will let it move through the water or along the surface of the moon in search of important video content and possibly even alien life. It harnesses energy from magnetic fields, as light is very scarce underneath the icy crust of Europa.
Learning concepts from nature and applying them to the design of real-world engineered systems is continuously providing numerous advantages to answer strategically problematic questions about social interactions. By combining principles across biomechanics, human decision-making, and mechanical design, biomimetic robots could easily manoeuvre themselves through debris, cross minefields, enter buildings on fire, or punch through walls. The biological world provides nearly limitless inspiration for robots.
Soundharya Kumaresan – Science Writer