About Adam Thompson

Adam Thompson is the manager of Digitizd.com.

5 Examples of Insect-Inspired Robotics

Everyone knows that robots are merely lifeless machines, no matter how amazing their abilities may be. However, you may be surprised at how often scientists replicate the features and capabilities of living creatures to increase robotic performance. In fact, there’s even a whole branch of robotics called “biomimetics” dedicated to that single premise. The term biomimetics means literally to “mimic life.” Insects are one form of life from which biomimetic scientists draw significant inspiration for new types of robotic technology.

Functions and behaviors that evolved over hundreds of millions of years in insects can be hard to top. So scientists increasingly looking to Mother Nature and biomimicry for innovative design ideas. The resulting technology is blurring the lines between living beings and machines more than ever.

Silently Communicating Crickets

African cave crickets communicate by using their wings to form airwaves that send a pocket of low-pressure air toward potential mates. The communication is silent, so that predators cannot be alerted to the insects’ presence. Andy Russell, from Monash University in Australia, explains the communication of the African cave cricket, saying, “Vortex rings are produced when a puff of air is ejected through a hole into still air…Vortices like these can travel for surprisingly long distances.”

This means of communication has been replicated by engineers in Australia, allowing robots to silently exchange information with one another. Robots that are able to silently communicate may prove useful for high security applications or in environments where noise is undesirable.

Lightning Fast Cockroaches

Researchers at UC Berkeley studied the way in which cockroaches can scurry up walls and across ceilings. The UC Berkeley project is entitled “DASH,” for Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod. Not only do DASH robots have the ability to walk on vertical surfaces, they can traverse gaps and run upside down by using the same movement as the cockroach.

In an article published in 2012, DASH scientists explained that they only discovered the secret to the roach’s movement after reviewing videos of it in slow motion. Now, however, others can see how the cockroach is such a mobile pest – by watching the DASH robot in action.

Swarming Bees

Robobees or “bee-bots,” as they are sometimes called, are in varying stages of development around the world. Mimicking bee behavior, on the scale necessary to replicate an entire hive, means controlling thousands of mini-bots simultaneously. When scientists are able to provide the bee-bots with sophisticated-enough brains, of course, that may be possible. However, scientists have not been able to accomplish this yet.


Photo via harvard.edu

Even if the ability to create a bee-sized bee-bot is still years away, experimentation and development continue. Research teams around the world are working on problems such as colony communication and robot size. In 2013, New Scientist magazine reported:

Robots have replicated complex insect flight: the BionicOpter, built by German technology company Festo, mimics a dragonfly, albeit one of prehistoric size… The DelFly Micro, created by researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, spans a mere 10 centimeters wing to wing. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers have used swarms of quadcopters, each small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, to pick up and move heavy objects.

No, we won’t see robobees pollinating orchards anytime soon, but there are still discoveries being made that some day may lead to this possibility.

Intelligent Ants

Ants are known for their ability to work together in order to accomplish a common goal. By modeling ant behavior, scientists are searching for ways to allow robots to team up and repair themselves, travel underground, or share tasks. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, researchers are particularly fascinated in how fire ants create bridges out of themselves. Not only do these creatures form bridges by linking appendages, they are also able to adjust the strength of their grip to keep the living bridge flexible and strong. This means that if the ants sense a weak spot in the bridge they can immediately compensate.

Simon Garnier, a Rutgers University scientist explains, “The construction rules followed by the ants represent a formidable source of inspiration for people working on self-assembling robots and self-repairing materials.”

Other ant-mimicking robots have already been developed. For example, scientists have been able to replicate the insects’ ability to find the most direct path to their goal by using light signals and relatively simple programming. The result is that the robots can now act autonomously to find the most efficient way to tackle a goal. Scientists believe this technology may be applied to road and space design in the future.

Rolling Caterpillars

Caterpillars have soft, flexible bodies along with five or six pairs of legs. They’re capable of generating momentum by rolling into a ball and propelling themselves along a variety of surfaces. This means of locomotion, sometimes called “ballistic rolling,” is currently being used by robots such as the GoQBot, which was developed at Tufts University several years ago. Until GoQBot was invented, soft-bodied robots were relatively slow-moving. The GoQBot, however, uses its silicon rubber body to propel itself nearly 20 inches (one-half meter) in one second. Amazingly, this robot is only ten centimeters, or about 4 inches, long.

Huai-Ti Lin, one of the senior researchers who worked on the GoQBot, commented a few years ago on the possible applications of this new design, suggesting that it could, “…enhance several robotic applications such as urban rescue, building inspection, and environmental monitoring.”


One might develop a bit more respect for the lowly insect after learning how important their physical structures, sensory features, and means of locomotion have become to scientists developing the next generation of robotics. The evolutionary forces that shaped their development are difficult to top. Now more than ever, insects are leading the way into the future of robotic technology.


Bar-Cohen, Yoseph. (2014) “Biologically-Inspired Intelligent Robots Using EAP as Biomimetic Actuation Materials.” NASA. Powerpoint.

Marks, Paul. (2011). “Cave Cricket’s Trick Keeps Robot Chatter Confidential.” New Scientist. 209(2802). March 5. p. 28.

Poeter, Damon. (2012). “Cockroach-like Robot Scurries Over Ledges in Creepy Fashion.” PC Magazine. June. p.1.

Williams, Caroline. (2013). “I, Bee Bot.” New Scientist. 220(2943). Nov. 11. p. 42-45.

“Fire Ants Lock Arms to Keep Bridges From Falling.” (2014). Science Now. Jan. 7. p2.

Lewis, Tanya. (2013). “Ants ‘Use Math’ to Find Fastest Route.” LiveScience. April 17.

“Caterpillars Inspire New Movements in Soft Robots.” (2011). Institute of Physics. Tufts University. April 27.

New IBM Video Tells You How To Survive A Robot Apocalypse

A couple years ago the CDC released a guide for surviving the zombie apocalypse. Zombie hunters everywhere rejoiced to have an official guide on that critical topic. Now anti-robot warriors can also rejoice because IBM has released a video with instructions for surviving a robot apocalypse (see video at the bottom of this post).

IBM’s hope is that their new cloud platform, IBM BlueMix, will be an effective tool for tracking robots and communicating with other anti-robot warriors. (“In the unlikely event of a cybernetic revolt, your smartphone may be used as a weapon.”)

Bottom line? You won’t get turned into one of these:

Good luck!

For Professional Designers: Website Builder Showdown: Webydo vs Adobe Muse

web design thumbnail

Professional web designers have been frustrated for years by coding. According to surveys conducted among web designers, about 70% of a budget is spent on coding. It is a major expense, increasing the cost of a project, thus eating into a designer’s profit margin. Coupled with the rapid growth of ecommerce and businesses needing an Internet presence, a designer’s workload can become problematic. Quick but professional turnaround is key, which leads some designers to visual website design platforms.

Adobe, one of the most well-known companies in the design industry, recently launched its new Muse software for designers who found Dreamweaver to be too clunky and inefficient. Another company, Webydo, also launched its own visual design toolkit, which makes the bold statement on their site of “By Designers, For Designers.”

For many, choosing which one to go with can be a difficult decision, so below we’ve outlined the benefits and drawbacks of each platform. This should help our readers single out which program is best for them.


Webydo is an online SaaS website builder platform created for professional web designers, by a team of designers. Developed with the specific goal of helping designers to have a more streamlined work process. As a B2B website builder, it also aims to provide creative professionals with an all-in-one solution for website creation, design, hosting, and a clients management dashboard where designers can bill their clients and manage their sites.

When creating a website, Webydo offers several choices to start off with – a blank canvas, an already-designed template and a wireframe layout. All of them are customizable. Selecting any one of these options then brings you to Webydo’s ‘online canvas’ tool. This setup both facilitates pixel layouts, and supplies an easy way to customize how the layout looks, and what content is displayed. The UI somewhat resembles Adobe software.

One of its benefits for the professional designer though, is the simple fact that it generates W3C-compliant code. You can create a mobile-responsive template as well, and preview it in Design mode. The design is converted and generated into HTML and CSS, without you needing to code or manually create a responsive site.

As for pricing, Webydo is a freemium service. It’s free with no ads, and the ability to set up unlimited Webydo subdomains. To host on your own domain, there is a low monthly cost, which is lower if you pay by year and includes unlimited bandwidth as well.

Another feature of Webydo’s platform is their interaction with the professionals who use their product. Webydo holds frequent meetings and daily feedback sessions with its community. Through these meetings and the online forums, they receive suggestions on new features, and hold voting sessions to determine the priority of each one’s implementation.

Adobe Muse

Muse is Adobe’s newest product for web designers, built as a complement for their Dreamweaver program. Where Dreamweaver was a robust yet bulky and difficult coding tool, Adobe’s Muse is a lighter build software that allows for visual editing, and no code manipulation.

Designers familiar with InDesign and Dreamweaver will recognize what seems to be a marriage between the two interfaces, making it more suitable for use by print designers, rather than web professionals. First you have to build a template – and then create your pages from said template, and then build a sitemap from those pages. Unfortunately this setup can become confusing with larger sites, which require a lot of pages to be designed and organized.

Muse also uses a canvas interface to build site designs. Users can place images and content where they choose to, and Muse will then generate code dependent on where items are placed. Designers are unable to modify or touch any of the code, as Muse is “code-free”.

However, this code-free feature can also be a drawback. The code generated by Muse does not always pass W3C standards checks. Adobe has flagged several issues to be improved in future updates: overuse of divs and CSS, web font support, lack of HTML5 semantics, and more. Although it has potential as a code-free web design program, it does lack SEO features.

Both of Webydo and Adobe Muse have their advantages. Are you a web designer that has tried out Webydo or Muse? Post a comment here, and share your own opinion with us.

Image credit: Flickr

Review: Tmart 8GB MP3 Player

I was recently given an 8GB Black MP3 Player from Tmart.com to review. I was eager to review the product, as I hoped to add another product to my list of “low priced products that get the job done well”. (I’ve never been one to appreciate the attraction of high priced MP3 players.)

Unfortunately, I found the product very disappointing, nearly to the point of being unusable. It has:

  • No actual manual/instructions
  • No volume control button
  • Difficult to read screen
  • Poor quality buttons that barely work
  • Difficult to navigate interface

The only positive item I note is that it does have a lot of storage space (about 7.5GB free space).

If you’re looking for a low-priced MP3 player, I recommend SanDisk’s Sansa Clip series. I’ve had my 4GB Sansa Clip+ for years and it works wonderfully (even in the rain). You can get one for about $40. It’s hard to beat that!

Looking For a Free Texting and Calling Service?

Looking for service that will allow you to send text messages and make phone calls for free? We recommend our friends at SendHub. Sendhub offers a free plan that includes (each month):

  • 60 voice minutes
  • 500 messages
  • 3 groups of 50 contacts

The free plan can be used for business or personal use. It’s a great solution for self-employed individuals who need an extra phone line at low (no) cost.

Go to SendHub.com to learn more.

If My Great-Grandmother Could Have Only Imagined…My MP3 Player

English: Ben Campbell steamship at landing, re...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many, many decades ago, my great-grandmother once dazzled passengers on a Mississippi riverboat with her piano and vocal skills. More importantly, she dazzled the man who would become her husband…and my great-grandfather.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t so long ago that music was not a readily available commodity like it is today. In the days of yore, if you wanted to hear music, you needed an instrument and someone who knew how to play it. The stunning beauty of a world-class symphony orchestra was a luxury many might never have the opportunity to enjoy.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at S...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How little could she have imagined that a century or so later, her great-grandson would have a device about the size of a belt buckle that could contain and play back music from an entire orchestra! How surprised would they be to see me press a button and listen to a song of my choice from the best orchestras and music groups in the world?

Do you ever stop and reflect how incredibly amazing modern technology is? We enjoy luxuries that in centuries past the most powerful king in the world would have eyed with envy.

Ubiquitous Computing, Better Batteries, And Tomorrow’s Energy Supply

“Ubiquitous computing” is the omnipresence of technology – smart phones, digital billboards, the giant TV screen in Times Square, tablets, GPS, self-parking cars, cloud computing services, and more. Digital technology and its applications are now present in virtually everything we use. Mobile technology allows us to take what we really like – things like our media and digital utilities – wherever we go. Cars, household appliances, and entertainment systems are all progressively displaying computer-based artificial intelligence characteristics, and they’re all targeted to our individual preferences. Due to this, technology is completely embedded in our society.

How will our energy supply need to adapt to power the technology of tomorrow?

The world’s demand for power is growing and changing by the day. According to a report by Exxon Mobile:

  • The world’s population will rise by more than 25% by 2040, reaching 9 billion.
  • In 2040, global energy demand will be approximately 700 quadrillion BTUs, or about 35 percent greater than in 2010.
  • China already consumes more energy than any other country.

With ubiquitous computing, wall-plug energy has become less and less practical, and efforts are underway to build the “better mousetrap” of the 21st Century. In this case, it’s the longer-lasting battery.


Will batteries like this soon be like cassette tapes – a relic of yesteryear?

More power will be delivered via battery

Many believe that battery power is the future of energy development. Why? The demand for our technology to be liberated from an outlet!

In the past, batteries have been a supplemental power source for items such as headlights and radios, but future technology will allow batteries to one day replace the primary power sources for large machinery and locomotive devices such as automobiles and industrial equipment.

Success in battery life extension is already occurring. According to NBC News, lithium-ion batteries are in development that will be able to store up to eight times more energy than conventional designs, an advancement made possible by a new conducting material that doesn’t break down after multiple charging cycles. Society is poised and ready for this development, and analysts, such as technology research firm IHS, are predicting the market to reach $54 billion by 2020.

As battery power becomes more prominent, recharging stations will appear in places like interstate rest stops just as they already have in airport lounges.

Oil PumpWhere will the energy come from?

As more power is delivered by rechargeable batteries, power plants will be needed to power more recharging stations. In the distant future, these are predicted to be solar plants, wind farms, and hydroplants. In the near future, however, fossil fuel plants may have to suffice. North America has vast oil and gas reserves of its own, most abundantly in Canada, North Dakota, Alaska, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. These locations are available for traditional prospecting and drilling without the hassle of navigating international trade regulations, politics, or foreign policy. There are currently several locations under consideration and exploration. The shale rock formations in the Bakken Oil Region of North Dakota are estimated (as of 2008) as capable of generating 167 billion barrels of oil. The Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada are estimated to yield anywhere from 267 billion to over 1.2 trillion barrels.

Where next?
Wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, or something else? How efficient will batteries become? One thing is for sure – ubiquitous computing (and other factors) are driving a lot of energy innovation – I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Google Nexus 7 Case Giveaway

Google Nexus Stand Case
In the wake of our Google Nexus 7 giveaway (congrats, Josien!) MobileFun has kindly offered to give two Digitizd readers a free case for their Google Nexus 7. The giveaway items are:

  1. SD TabletWear Stand Case
  2. FlexiShield Wave Case

How To Enter
Entering this giveaway is easy – just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter up to five times.
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