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Sensing & Measurement

Bioinspiration brings fresh perspective to photonics

"Animal ambassadors" highlight the possibilities of bioinspiration and its applications to sensing.

31 March 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201403.09

Most efforts to develop sensing capabilities are human-based attempts to mimic with technology something that already exists in nature. The annual SPIE Smart Structures/NDE symposium includes a popular conference on Bioinspiration, Biomimetics and Bioinspiration.

With sessions on sensors, locomotion, and biomaterials, one of the conference highlights is a panel discussion, coordinated by the San Diego Zoo-affiliated Centre for Bioinspiration, to promote the value of biomimicry as a paradigm for engineering research and practice. Part of the program is a visit from an "animal ambassador" with a zoo representative to explain some of its remarkable features that can provide inspiration for the work of engineers and scientists.

In 2014, the featured guest was a tamandua, or lesser anteater, a species native to Central and South America. In the video above, Kristina Seitz of the San Diego Zoo introduces Tipu and describes some of his unique features, including a 16-inch-long tongue.

Founded in 2012, the Centre for Bioinspiration aims to connect private, public and academic organizations in the study of nature's solutions to a variety of scientific problems. The organization's mission is "to advance the creation and development of nature-inspired products, services, and processes that benefit humanity, wildlife, and habitats."