INCOSE/NSWG Webinar: Are We on the Way to Getting ‘Good’ Biomimetics Practices? (12:00-13:00 CDT)

Fri, 2016/06/17

Dr. Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Senior Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology

In this Webinar, the author will raise the above questions as background leading to discussing the primary question: “Are we on the way to identifying and documenting a set of ‘good’ or ‘best’ practices for biomimetics?”

Nature, through evolution over about four billion years, has been conducting trial and error experiments.  These have led to many biological inventions— including our human species that is the most sophisticated outcome.  The resulting enormous pool of “inventions” have always been an inspiring source of solutions to humans’ problems and needs.  Even the human form and functions have inspired efforts to mimic and adapt, including our appearance, functions, capabilities, and intelligence. 

The developed biologically inspired technologies are allowing us to produce mechanisms that once were considered only in the realm of science-fiction.  Advances in computing include powerful miniature microprocessors, real-time imaging and recognition, speech interpretation, biped dynamic control, flexible materials, and many other related technologies.  These have led to creating lifelike robots that closely resemble humans. Such robots are being developed with impressive capabilities and sophistication making them even able, in conversation with natural humans, to express emotions, both verbally and facially. 

While extensive advances are being made in biomimetics, in the efforts to establish systematic methods of implementing the ‘best’ biomimetic practices, we have many questions:

  • Since everything we do can find an equivalence in Nature—
    • Are all our technologies biomimetic?
    • Can we distinguish between inspired and coincidentally biological-like designs?  For example, our furniture, cars, etc. are supported by four legs/wheels and most animals walk using four legs.  Is this bio-inspiration?  Or coincidence?
    • Is any “smart” system biomimetic— if it has a sensor and computer driven closed loop control?
  • Since biomimetics is not a pure science or standalone field—
    • Is it possible to come up with an engineering master plan of how to systematically mimic or be inspired by Nature?
    • Will we be able to program a computer to use this plan to develop Nature inspired designs?
  • Can problem solving be a biomimetic practice? 
    • Velcro is a good example:  Nature’s solution inspired a human made solution.  Can we follow this example?
    •  Can we go further and effectively, through the documentation of more of Nature’s mechanisms, provide inspiring ideas and process suggestions for future problem solvers?

INCOSE Natural Systems Working Group (NSWG)  
Chair:  Curt McNamara  —  Co-chair:  George Studor
nswg-info [at] incose [dot] org
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