The robotic zoo
Bio-inspired robotics is about studying biological systems, and look for the mechanisms that may solve a problem in the engineering field.
New developments in this area are already producing a whole zoo of robotic animals, with applications ranging from militairy use to pets. No animal, wether it's a snake, fish, bird or even a fire-spitting dragon, is safe from being copied by engineers.
In households, robotic pets are becoming more and more common. These artificially intelligent machines made to ressemble common pets such as cats and dogs now mimic pets more naturally and are less work to take care of than actual pets.
Some people name their robot vacuum like it is a member of their family and much prefer repairs than exchanges since they prefer keeping their family member 'alive' than replacing it (or him/her). Now with robots that look and feel like pets, this phenomenon is becoming even more common and these machines or robots are becoming an actual family member or friend much like pets.
As robots leave the controlled environments of factories to autonomously function in more complex, natural environments, they will have to respond to the inevitable fact that they will become damaged. However, while animals can quickly adapt to a wide variety of injuries, current robots cannot 'think outside the box' to find a way to continue when damaged: they are limited to their pre-specified selfsensing abilities, can diagnose only anticipated failure modes, and require a pre-programmed contingency plan for every type of potential damage. Therefore intelligent trial and error algorithms that allow robots to adapt to damage, without requiring self-diagnosis or pre-specified contingency plans, are now being developed in laboratories around the world.
The collective behavior of animals has also been of interest to researchers for several years. Ants can make structures like rafts to survive on the rivers. Fish can sense their environment more effectively in large groups. Swarm robotics is a fairly new field and the goal is to make robots that can work together and transfer the data, make structures as a group, etc.
Soft robotics is another new development and the idea here is to make all of the components in the robot soft and flexible in order to move in very limited spaces and change gaits fairly easily. This field is inspired by animals such as octopus or starfish.