Having access to information about mechanistic and behavioral strategies of organisms is crucial for Biomimicry. Currently about 1.7 million species have been identified, however, that’s only a small fraction of the about 30 million species estimated to be living on earth. Even for biologists it is a hard task to abstract usable strategies to inform biomimetic designs, so for non-biologist this can become a real hurdle. Therefore, several tools have been developed to assist in ideation. Many good reviews have been published on this topic, also see the list of resources I put together a while ago.
The existence of tools doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be improved, updated and optimized. Especially with a growing understanding of biological strategies and new species being discovered, biological databases are ever-evolving tools. Recently I read “A scalable approach for ideation in biologically inspired design,” a paper presenting an automated classification approach that eliminates the time consuming task of classifying biological strategies. They are proposing that this will assist in more rapid growth of AskNature – a free to use, online bioinspiration tool that uses the Biomimicry Taxonomy to structure its database.
I decided to blog about this paper not only because the authors are researchers from Belgium (yes, I’m a little patriotic here) but also because their efforts are crucial for the further development of tools that support successful practice of biomimicry. I’m hoping that by spreading the word about their classification algorithm we can promote its further development and integration into AskNature.
Another important challenge for databases like AskNature is the limited input of biological strategies. I have to be honest, I haven’t contributed myself, yet – but after reading this paper I made myself the promise that whenever I’m reading about this super cool organism, I will check if it’s included in AskNature, and if not, I’ll contribute a page on it. All of us are reading and hearing about many inspiring examples as we practice biomimicry, so as a community of practitioners we should all work collaboratively and contribute to the growth of AskNature.
As a matter of fact, I just learned caterpillars have about 4000 muscles, while humans only have 63. I’m doing more research on the caterpillar’s musculature and how it is used before adding a page to AskNature, but I think the large number of muscles is required for caterpillars to achieve their unique wave-like motion. I can see how this could inspire new ways of robot locomotion, for example.
Cheers to collaboration across disciplines and around the globe!
Vandevenne, Dennis, et al. “A scalable approach for ideation in biologically inspired design.” Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 29.01 (2015): 19-31.