Design Decoded: Biomimetic Design Means We’ll All Be Living A Bug’s Life

Robo-bee, a collaboration between Harvard University electrical engineers Rob Wood and Gu-Yeon Wei, and computer scientist Radhika Nagpal (image: Inhabitat)

Biomimicry is a design principle that looks to reproduce systems, behaviors, or effects observed in the nature. After all, what we stupid humans have been working on for a couple hundred years –at best!– nature has been developing for eons. In what seems an inevitable twist, scientist are now using science to replace nature with improved techno-nature. Science!

In recent years, bees have been dying and disappearing around the world. Colony Collapse Disorder, as the phenomenon is known, is a threat to the world’s food supply and a mystery that, despite much research and at least two documentaries, remains largely unanswered. In lieu of a solution, a team of Harvard scientists are looking for an alternative. Enter RoboBee, which is exactly what it sounds like: a robot modeled after the performance and behaviors of the honey bee. When complete, RoboBees will fly like bees, operate in unison like a colony, and most importantly, pollinate. But the potential for hive-mind robot insects is much greater. For example, such technology could be used in search and rescue efforts following disasters. Of course, that’s all much easier said than done. But advancements have been made. By looking at the movement of other flying insects, the RoboBee team have so far been able to create a nickel-sized machine capable of basic flight and they hope to see it swarming in five to ten years. This of course means that five to ten years after that, the RoboBee empire will have conquered Earth.

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