Robotic systems were first developed to remove humans from the risks of radiation exposure during the Manhattan project of the 1940’s. Since then, robots have removed humans from hazardous manufacturing environments, have allowed mankind to explore the surface of Mars, and have improved medical care with surgical robotics and rehabilitation robots.
Due to cumulative advances, new application areas, and commercial activity, we believe that biologically inspired robots and biomedically oriented robotics research will have a significant impact in the future. The general theme of biocentric robotics can be broken down into three areas: bioinspiration, or the creation of humanoid and animal-inspired robots with comparable function, bioinstrumentation for the automated measurements of physiological and biomechanical states of humans, and biomanipulation, which refers to robotic systems that physically interact with humans.
Biologically inspired robots can function well in complex, hazardous environments. Roboticists now recognize that humans, animals and insects have evolved very sophisticated structures and strategies for coping with such environments. Examples include robots being built with flapping wings, with biologically inspired leg designs, with scales like snakes have, and with spines and claws for climbing shear walls.
Bioinstrumentation involves new ways of monitoring and measuring human functions, to improve the accuracy or the convenience of making such measurements or to provide totally new kinds of methods. Portable measurement systems equipped with communications, whether integrated into clothes such as shoes or fabric, will allow monitoring the health of a person in remote settings. Human measurement is also necessary to guide a robot physically interacting with a human, such as in assistance or rehabilitation.
Biomanipulation addresses the increasing health impact of robots as well as more general human-computer interfaces (HCI) using robotic devices. Medical robots are very accurate and may assist surgeons in delicate operations. Routine tasks of rehabilitation may be automated with robots, such as repetitive motion for training. Robots may offer partial weight support that would allow the elderly to move around more freely, or to assist a person recovering from a stroke.
Together, these areas provide a rich area from which to draw inspiration, yet create focus for development. Another hope is that this theme highlights beneficial applications of robotics. You can make a difference by working in this research area.