Biologically Inspired Robotics

Abstract

Throughout the history of robotics research, nature has been providing numerous ideas and inspirations to robotics engineers. Small insect-like robots, for example, usually make use of reflexive behaviors to avoid obstacles during locomotion, whereas large bipedal robots are designed to control complex human-like leg for climbing up and down stairs. While providing an overview of bio-inspired robotics, this chapter particularly focus on research which aims to employ robotics systems and technologies for our deeper understanding of biological systems. Unlike most of the other robotics research where researchers attempt to develop robotic applications, these types of bio-inspired robots are generally developed to test unsolved hypotheses in biological sciences. Through close collaborations between biologists and roboticists, bio-inspired robotics research contributes not only to elucidating challenging questions in nature but also to developing novel technologies for robotics applications. In this chapter, we first provide a brief historical background of this research area and then an overview of ongoing research methodologies. A few representative case studies will detail the successful instances in which robotics technologies help identifying biological hypotheses. And finally we discuss challenges and perspectives in the field.

Biologically inspired robotics (or bio-inspired robotics in short) is a very broad research area because almost all robotic systems are, in one way or the other, inspired from biological systems. Therefore, there is no clear distinction between bio-inspired robots and the others, and there is no commonly agreed definition [75.1]. For example, legged robots that walk, hop, and run are usually regarded as bio-inspired robots because many biological systems rely on legged locomotion for their survival. On the other hand, many robotics researchers implement biological models of motion control and navigation onto wheeled platforms, which could also be regarded as bio-inspired robots [75.2].

CPG

central pattern generator

SLIP

spring loaded inverted pendulum

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EngineeringUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.School of EngineeringSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland

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