Robotics is a discipline that aims to build and execute behavior. As such, it can learn a lot from biology, another research area that is also studying behavior, but in this case the behavior of animals. Animals, including humans, show generalization capabilities, problem-solving skills, and adaptivity that outshine current robots in many ways. As animals often behave with remarkable efficiency and robustness, it makes sense to look for solutions to robotic problems not just in engineering sciences, but also in biology!
Several of our past and ongoing projects aim to connect the worlds of robotics and biology in one way or another. We performed human grasping studies where we learned that robots should exploit contact with the environment when they grasp objects, and that it highly important to build robot hands compliantly. We analyzed how humans use heuristics for ball catching and how the regularities they exploit could also be used by autonomous machines. Furthermore, we try to understand how cockatoos are able to solve complex mechanical puzzles, and we aim to use this understanding to build robots that can explore and use human-made mechanical objects, such as drawers and cupboards. Related, we also research how humans select different strategies from a "mental toolbox" to explore mechanical puzzles.
These are just some examples of how we try to connect biology and robotics. While we perform this research, we often realize that it is not sufficient to employ well known and established research methodologies, but that we also need to develop the research methodology itself.