Where Can We Use Biologically Inspired Robots?

SK Gupta discusses the value of biologically inspired robots in terms of "useful tools to discuss and teach science and mathematics", practical applications such as exploring areas where traditional robots cannot cope and next generation prosthetics, as well as more speculative applications.  The challenge is identifying a clear need where bio-inspiration is critical and capable at delivering the solution.

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salustri's picture

A note about "use"

For me, this type of work highlights one of the key fundamental (and relatively egg-heady) concerns: the notion of "use."

Biological 'things' aren't "used." They just are.  Use implies a user and intention, neither of which exist in the biological domain.  So the question is: given such a fundamental difference between the biological domain and the domain of artifacts, where does one draw the line in following nature's lead?

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nhoeller's picture

re: A note about "use"

Fil, I am not sure Gupta meant "use" in this sense - I think he was referring to the educational and practical uses of robots that emulate some biological function. 

I think the point you make has broader implications if we are dealing with more complex functionality.  How do we map the function in the technological domain (where there are users with intention) to the biological domain where the functions may relate to a dramatically different context?

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salustri's picture

I see what you're saying

I see what you're saying Norbert.  The "use" applies not to the robot's function, but to how the robot is used in education/practice.

But I think it's still the same thing.  The robot must have been made for a use (even if that use is pedagogic rather than to actually do something "useful").

This also gets back to that paper I found where researchers were trying to stop evolution in synthetic DNA because it was evolving away from the function they intended it to have.  It's really the same thing.  Nature plays by different rules than we do, and it doesn't really give a tinker's cuss how inconvenient it is for us.  We will either have to accommodate it, or just find another way to get what we want.  I think accommodation is possible, though I haven't a clue how that would work.

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