Nature has always been used as an inspirational model for technology development. It offers a great model for emulation ranging from mechanical tools, computational algorithms, materials science, as well as information technology and novel mechanisms. Progressing technology is increasingly enabling effective mechanisms that mimic the appearance, mobility, functionality, and intelligent operation of biological systems. A growing number of researchers and engineers are implementing concepts, algorithms, configurations, functions, and/or mechanisms that are biologically inspired. Using the advances and emerging capabilities, the challenges that are posed to imitating nature are addressed with ever-growing success. The field of biologically inspired technology has progressed to levels where robots have been applied to serve a number of useful functions from exploration, to forestry, to entertainment. Other benefits of this technology include prosthetic implants and human-aiding mechanisms that are interfaced to the brain and assist in such functions as hearing or seeing. As discussed throughout this book, the topic of biologically inspired intelligent robots is very broad and covers many applications and disciplines.
At the early stages of their development, robots were not well received because they were considered too bulky and expensive and requiring significant maintenance, modifications and/or upgrades. Making effective intelligent robots became feasible when powerful lightweight microprocessors were introduced having high computation speed, very large memory, wide communication bandwidth, effective control algorithms, and powerful software tools. Advancements in computers and control methodologies have permitted the development of sophisticated robots and a significant expansion of the possibilities to emulate biological systems. Autonomous robots have been developed with superior capabilities that allow them to operate in harsh or hazardous environments that are too dangerous for human presence. Generally, one can identify two parallel trends in the development of biologically inspired robotic mechanisms:
(1) Components or elements that can be attached to the human body to augment its operation or implanted into the body (potentially making a bionic person).
(2) Complete stand-alone systems or robots that operate similarly to biological creatures and possibly operate autonomously.
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