The ins-and-outs of our Earthly domain is as complex as it is overwhelming. For us, humans, knowing what’s below us or within the tiniest crevices of our planet can be a nearly impossible task. If you’re a construction worker, you’re all too familiar with hard-to-reach areas that make your job all the more complicated. Which is why, for industrial designer Arman Emami, one possible solution to nearly all of our problems could be a healthy combination of both nature and robotics.
Known as the Robo Worm, this small-scale robot mimics similar locomotion as that of a worm or caterpillar. Inside of its silicon tube are magnetized metal rings, allowing it to simulate the motion of a caterpillar’s circular muscles. This allows it to easily maneuver across rough and uneven surfaces, contorting its body through tunnels and canals. With its double-headed structure, moving forward and backward within tight spaces is easily achieved. And in order to record its surroundings, the Robo Worm is equipped with additional sensors, like cameras and a microphone.
This style of robotics is known as biomimicry. The idea goes that, in order to better adapt to our natural surroundings and overcome its obstacles, we need to begin developing robots which take inspiration from nature itself. It’s not enough to simply take from nature and expect positive results; if we wish for our technologies to not come into conflict with nature, then those technologies will need to become nature in and of themselves. In doing so, not only will we be better prepared in dealing with nature’s numerous obstacles, but also do so in a way where nature and technology can be harnessed in harmony.
Five to ten years from now, expect biomimicry to take on an even larger role in the development of robotics. From drones to cleaner bots, our robots will not only be tasked to maintain (and help simplify) our responsibilities but will be able to do so with the best of what nature has to offer in inspiration. The Robo Worm serves as only a small example of what is possible when you begin integrating both nature and technology.
In other cases, we’ll also begin witnessing robots taking over where nature is no longer able to provide itself. For example, with what seems like the inevitable collapse of the honey bee colony, companies are fast at work in developing drones that’ll compensate for this unfortunate loss. By the 10-year-mark, we should expect the commercial application of these robotic bees to help save us from a potentially gloomy situation.
“Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. In a society accustomed to dominating or ‘improving’ nature, this respectful imitation is a radically new approach, a revolution really. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her.”
– Janine Benyus
Thirty to fifty years from now, the question of what is nature and what is technology will be rendered moot. There won’t be a discernible difference between the two as they’ll share a symbiotic relationship. This will also march alongside the emergence of invisible computing, where our most advanced technologies – from robotics to artificial intelligence – will have become etched into our physical space to such an extent that we’ll become unaware of their existence completely.
Everything we see, everything we touch, everything we interact with will have some origin to that of both nature and technology. Somewhere around this time, even us, humans, will have become part of the symbiosis. We will be both biological and technological – advanced cyborgs via cybernetics and gene-editing. We’ll have taken a grand step towards our next evolutionary journey as a (newly engineered) species.
Photo Credit: Arman Emami