Beetles might provide a better design

When I think of many of the robots that appear in Hollywood films and occasionally pop up in segments on news magazines I can’t help but notice how many of them look like people. There seems to be some expectation that when we all have personal helper droids they’ll look more like us than R2-D2, but I have to wonder if our body plans provide a good design for robots that might eventually be made to do a number of tasks. (Our upright bipedalism, for example, means that every time we take a step we have to prevent ourselves from falling over. Such a mode of locomotion is difficult to replicate, especially without all the muscles that help make it work!)

Given the success of arthropods I have to wonder if beetles would not provide a better design, or forget taking cues from natural objects we admire and try to make something that works rather than something that is familiar. Take a look at this short piece on a robot currently in development. Although it isn’t the spitting image of Homo sapiens it still seems to be based upon our general body plan;

I’ll be seeing Wall-E myself tonight and am definitely looking forward to it, but I do find it interesting that even as we seek to create artificial beings our ideas about what they should look like appear to be very narrow. Why is this so?

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