Since the first stone tools use came into use, there has been a hybrid of Natural elements and innovative technology. The first fire, often the go-to invention for analogy, second only to sliced bread, was more than likely achieved with wood and stones, cleverly applied to the task. Despite some blips in which naturally occurring materials went out of favor, usually following the invention of the synthetic material of the time such as plastics, spandex and polyester, there is some natural component to even the most technologically advanced devices.
The wonder metal that is utterly bullet-proof and may well allow astronauts to get a nice clear close-up of the surface of the sun, while not a naturally occurring metal such as nickle, an alloy made up of three such metals. Two of the metals used are carbon and nitrogen, which are among the most commonly occurring elements in the Earth’s crust.
While the smelting process used to create the alloy is not natural, the elements used in it most certainly are. Another naturally occurring element key to our survival over the millennia, though also occasionally trying to poison us or rip our heads off, are the animals with which we share the planet. Now a days, scientists actively aware of our history of innovation, hybridization and Animal reliance have come up with a sparking new scientific discipline: Biomimetics aka ‘animal robots’.
First things first
With a name including the short term for ‘biology’ and the fancy science way of saying ‘mimic’, Biomimetics refers to endeavors to develop technological devices that directly mimic aspects of nature.
This can include a new, efficient wing design based on those of particular insects. Which really only makes logical sense considering that they have had a bit more practice having mastered the activity of flight a few million years before we did. Hard to admit I know but sadly, true. There are also those with a more zoological bent that who build, at times, full-sized, fully functional robots based on animal species.
And the point is …..
Aside from looking really cool while in use and being almost as cute as their flesh and bone models, which they are and do (as shown by this robot of a Kangaroo), this sort of robotic recreation is used as means to to better understand the mechanics of natural movement. Quadbot is just that. A 3D printable, programmable walking robot made to look and act like an animal.
Something that used to be done by either observing animals in the wild or having them chained up in the laboratory both of which brought their own set of issues. Distance and possibly being killed in the first case and ethical issues and possibly being killed if something went wrong in the second. Both of these have been eliminated in the case of biomimetics, the subjects under observation being painstakingly constructed robotic replicas, allowing for safe, up-close observation without the moral issues associated with animal captivity. A win-win for everyone involved, thus showing once again that, when it is important people really can, eventually, think our way out of a problem.