If you’re facing a tough design challenge you may want to look to nature to see how millions of years of evolution have addressed a similar problem. Biomimicry (which Marc mentioned in a blog post about tools to help design more environmentally responsible products) is the mimicking of nature to solve engineering or other human problems. The field of robotics in particular has been yielding some very interesting solutions to challenges of locomotion and range of motion. Here are a few of my favorites:
This perching unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) relies on a claw design similar to a small bird, enabling it to perch on vertical surfaces.
The Stickybot mimics a gecko, enabling it to climb smooth vertical surfaces.
This robotic handling system gets a greatly expanded range of motion by mimicking an elephant’s trunk.
With fluid-based muscles, this system mimics the muscle structure of a human.
To learn more about some of these (and other) projects, visit the online home of the Stanford Biomimetics & Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory, which designed the perching UAV and the Stickybot.