30 January, 2011

Robotics and design.

Property of the BBC

What form would a robot take if designed by another robot?

I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask this question. I’ve always been keenly interested in design, it’s form and function. Function dictates design and from this comes the form. The simplest example is a spoon. It really requires no more evolutionary changes, and looks elegant; even being immortalized in pop culture: “There’s no spoon.”

I remember stumbling across a website that discussed the form and function of the camera. Cameras, as you know, are boxy, awkward, and often heavy. Whether it be a point and shoot or an actual 35 mm camera, they all contain that similar shape and dynamic of rectangularity. It served the purpose of holding and exposing the film roll.

But now that film has been replaced, by an large, by digital media, is the same form factor still required; or is there a better shape: spherical, perhaps? Smarter men than I are no doubt hard at work finding that better shape.

Back to robots, then. That familiar design of the bipedal, anthropomorphic robot that mimics us everywhere. We see it all over pop culture, we make them dance, even tell jokes.

It’s mimicry that’s the best evolutionary tool. It’s how our culture survives. What fascinates me, then, is when robotics become as sophisticated as natural evolution what shape will be created? Will it follow along natural guidlines and appear like us, or as cockroaches, or something completely new? I hope what comes about is beyond our expectations and opens us up to a larger world of how to go about designing our universe.

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