The Secrets of Nature Lead The Way In Robotics
If you want to predict the future of robotics, look no further than the world around us. The dynamics of nature will help robots conquer the world like never before.
When looking at a beetle one can’t help to be underwhelmed. It is small, it is generally considered to be gross and can be squashed easily. What could we possibly learn from it? Like so many things, the devil is in the details. The way it moves around a terrain and adapts to height. The way it re-balances itself and how it can squeeze itself into tiny holes. Once you really observe insects you realize how ingenious they are built and how they can adapt to a multitude of challenge by using only their strong, but flexible body as leverage.
Nature is full of ingenious adaptions, evolution and revolution. From amoebas to mammoths there is something to be learned from each of them. By looking at the specific skills and analyzing the dynamics of movement we can apply this to robotics. The CLIMBeR in the video uses a combination of limbs and technology in such a way that it can adapt to the terrain by carefully analyzing the terrain while adjusting the limb position and pressure. In a way this is similar to how many long-limbed bugs crawl across terrains.
There is usually a lot of emphasis on trying to build a humanoid robot with visions of a society where robots and humans are almost indistinguishable. Perhaps human movement is too much of a challenge for now since the complexity is enormous, but so much progress has been made in simpler movement dynamics.
The world of robotics keeps reinventing itself by expanding, combining and adapting its skills. The advantage that we can give robots is that we can design them for a specific task and give them the required analytic capabilities to scan, assess and adapt without legacy issues. In other words, we can start from scratch to design robots that solve a problem by giving them an optimal set of tools. This requires a combination of analytic and creative thinking.
Fortunately, nature has already done a ton of research and development.