A group of small robots
Our 'kilobot' swarm robots

Welcome to Week 2

Last week we looked at the foundations of robotic operations. The methods we have learned about so far have mostly relied on mathematical analysis. Are there other useful sources of inspiration for research and development?

This week, we’ll discover what the natural world can offer the field of robotics.

Over millions of years, evolution by natural selection has enabled living systems to develop elegantly efficient solutions in areas such as movement, process control and communication. For example, the movements of animals such as fish in a shoal or the flying patterns of birds in a flock. These movements can be modelled mathematically and their algorithms implemented on the processors of robots. This week, we’ll learn how evolution’s vast repository of biological solutions is helping to solve robotic problems; from whiskered robots that can differentiate between the sensations that moving their whiskers cause and external stimuli; to multi-robot swarms that can work cooperatively in teams.

Human behaviour can also be a source of inspiration for robotics. We’ll discover how humanoid robots can help in classrooms and how robots that mimic human emotion can be used in animal-assisted therapy.

Towards the end of the week, we’ll explore an exciting area of research in this field; controlling robots with our mind. Physically impaired people are already beginning to use this technology to carry out the everyday tasks that they would otherwise have great difficulty with.

So let’s start by seeing where we can go within nature to inspire great robotic developments.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Building a Future with Robots

The University of Sheffield

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: