Over decades of research and development, engineers have been working on designing and building robots that can walk and run as well as animals and have built many devices capable of independent movement. Max Donelan of Simon Fraser University, Canada and colleagues from various USA universities carried out an extensive study of running robots comparing them with appropriate animal equivalents. 

They looked at five different functions needed for efficient locomotion – power, frame, actuation (converting energy to motion), sensing, and control.  They found “With few exceptions, engineering technologies meet or exceed the performance of their biological counterparts.” However, robots consistently fall short in overall achievements, such as range, agility, and robustness. 

Max Donelan explained: “A wildebeest can migrate for thousands of kilometres over rough terrain, a mountain goat can climb up a literal cliff, finding footholds that don’t even seem to be there, and cockroaches can lose a leg and not slowdown.  We have no robots capable of anything like this endurance, agility, and robustness.” 

The research team concluded “biology’s advantage over engineering arises from better integration of subsystems, and we identify four fundamental obstacles that roboticists must overcome.”

According to the Editor’s summary in Science Robotics, “there must be as-yet-undiscovered principles of integration and control that give animals their advantage over robots.”

According to Science Alert, “It’s not that our most advanced robots are far behind in any one particular category. The problem is that we haven’t yet figured out how to combine all these different elements together as well as millions of years of evolution has.”

The researchers hope their study will help develop robots that can negotiate uneven terrain not suitable for wheels, handle hazardous materials, and carry out searches in dangerous environments.

Kaushik Jayaram from the University of Colorado Boulder commented: “Animals are, in some sense, the embodiment of this ultimate design principle – a system that functions really well together.  Nature is a really useful teacher.”

Max Donelan commented: “As engineering learns integration principles from biology, running robots will become as efficient, agile, and robust as their biological counterparts.”

References: Simon Fraser University News 24 April; ScienceDaily 26 April 2024; Science Alert 6 May 2024; Science Robotics 24 April doi: 10.1126/scirobotics.adi9754.

Editorial Comment:  Scientists and engineers can certainly learn from studying living things but the teacher is not an imaginary entity named “Nature”. The fact that the scientists recognise they are seeing design in the way animals work as integrated systems, means they must acknowledge there is a Designer who not only made the components and subsystems but knew how the whole animal was going to work and put the components to together.  This cannot be done by evolutionary processes that randomly change individual structures and functions but mutating genes in an unplanned way. 

As Creation Research has been saying for many years, nothing in biology works in isolation.  All living things are integrated systems made up of interacting components and subsystems working according to an overall design.

We’ve said it before and we say it again! When engineers eventually design and build running robots that can match animals it will be because they applied more creative design, and they will be even more without excuse when they answer to the Creator of the animals – the Lord Jesus Christ who created all things and will call people to account for ignoring what He made plain to see.

Creation Research News 15 May 2024

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