Rob, I'm glad you enjoy my stories about biomimicry: they are sure fun to research and write. But as a student of military history, I have to disagree with you about how wars are won. Superior technology is not enough to do the job in all or even most cases. I have one word for you: "Vietnam." I have another: "Lawrence of Arabia." (OK, that was three words, but it's an excellent example.) TE Lawrence led not very well-armed Arabs against very well-armed Turks with superior technology and won because of superior strategy and tactics, superior knowledge of terrain, and superior military intelligence and bravado. There have also been many other situations where a smaller force with equal technology beat the heck out of a larger force. Celtic tribes beat the Romans for several centuries B.C. long before the Romans wised up, borrowed Celtic tactics, improved their own technology, and got more disciplined.
Al, I think you've basically answered Beth's question: If you need a critter that jumps extremely high and can land in weird places, a sand flea is a good candidate, and cockroaches can crawl over just about any surface. Boston Dynamics has already designed and built several other robots based on animal movement, so I suspect it didn't take much extra thought in the creative process to consider the "what if" of insects.
Good point about war prompting innovation. Wars are won almost exclusively on which side has the superior technology in the greatest quantity, whether it's horses in the West or atom bombs in the East.
Beth, it has always been the case that wars bring innovation. These units will be tested in theatre. The conditions will be demanding and threats real. If they prove useful it will be a big boost for this type of technology.
Ann, Good article. It's amazing the diversity of mobile robots but who would have imagined a robot that behaves like a cockroach that can move over a wide variety of rough terrain, plus climb telephone poles and stairs. Or a sand flea that can jump 30 feet in the air when it meets an obstacle. Is the appliation for these designs the equivalent of drones that can move over the terrain?
I saw a New Yorker cartoon recently where two cowboys were riding along, one on a horse, the other on a giant grasshopper. The caption comes from the cowboy on the grasshopper. He says, "This will all make sense when we get to the next canyon."
Ann's stories about materials and contrations coming from natrue are getting ever more interesting.
I have to admit, the references to sand fleas and cockroaches really got to me. The idea of developing robots based on animal behaviors makes perfect sense, but I have to ask, why sand fleas and roaches?? It's amazing that the connection was made between the movements of these bugs and the desired movements for these robots for their potential applications. All I can say is, Yuck!
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From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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