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Biologically-Inspired Technology

A Web site from Michigan State University (1) is a useful starting point for learning about biologically inspired technologies. In addition to briefly discussing the natural processes that are most commonly studied in the development of such technologies, there is a large collection of links to other research efforts and related material. The Ant Colony Optimization project (2) uses the behavior of ants as a model to solve optimization problems, such as how to minimize Internet traffic congestion. Several downloadable research papers are included on the project's homepage, as well as links to news stories, radio broadcasts, and conference proceedings about ant algorithms. A seminar course at the University of Virginia (3) in spring 2003 considered aspects of biologically-inspired computing. The course homepage has links to journal articles and research papers that range in topic from evolutionary programming to spacecraft designs based on living cells. Biomimetics is the focus of work being done at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (4). One of the selected publications available on the Web site will be presented at an international conference in July 2003. The paper discusses the use of artificial muscles in intelligent robots. A research group at the California Institute of Technology (5) is studying the capability of DNA and other biomolecules to process information and implement algorithms. A general overview of the group's purpose and motivation is provided, as well as a number of publications. An excellent background of some of the most significant developments in artificial life and intelligence is given in a 56-page paper from Hewlett-Packard Laboratories (6). The author discusses many different issues, including neural networks and software agents, and concludes by alluding to future application areas. Cutting edge, biologically-inspired robots are the topic of a June 2003 news article from The Boston Globe (7). These robots include RoboLobster and BigDog, the latter of which is said will be able to run at fifteen miles per hour when it is finished around the beginning of 2005. Finally, a NASA technology brief from May 2003 (8) discusses efforts to combine characteristics of several different species into one artificial creation to optimally serve the purposes of a mission.
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