Biomimetic file 164: Hydrogels in robotics

Why being adaptable is becoming a key requirement for businesses


Image source: A soft business* model is here defined as a business which does not resist to change but on the other hand one which adapts by following the evolving trends.

Highlight: “The mimic octopus is a truly bizarre dweller of the deep. It possesses the ability to rapidly change its skin color and texture in order to camouflage itself against its environment. In addition, it can imitate the behavior of several different animals, allowing it to run, slither like a snake, and even act as a jellyfish…Now, a team of robotics engineers at Cornell University have developed an artificial skin that can stretch and change color in much the same way. As their pioneering study in the journal Science reveals, this could transform the field of robotics – particularly in the field of health care…Soft robotics is a particularly new form of engineering, based around the idea that all of the components need to be flexible. These types of robots will theoretically be able to move around in restricted spaces using a variety of locomotion methods, but before they become a reality, their basic construction materials need to be developed…”

Insight: In a similar way then moving forward with soft robotics, business models also need to transform themselves to become more “soft*”:  being reactive and adaptable.

Societies are transforming themselves faster then at any given time in modern human history but despite this obvious change many businesses are still stuck with outdated models and mindsets. Particular sectors such as virtual reality, cloud technologies or 3D printing are in the midst of transforming our societies economical models. Many small and large companies are struggling to keep afloat in these transition times and it is expected that many will fall as a result of their incapacity to react fast enough to the change. Soft models are the best defense against change and there are many examples in natural systems that illustrate this point…

A good case study is a company (not difficult to guess which one), that was leading in the field of photographic films. Some time in the late 20th century, digital camera technology started to come out and within a few years only had completely overtaken the market of photographic cameras including traditional films. This company is notorious for having failed to adapt and follow the trends fast enough by instead having hold on to their business models. They have now recovered but with much damage endured to the company which almost collapsed…

Besides this specific case there are many other examples of companies which have failed to identify changing trends in the market place and have not adapted fast enough. Some sectors which are still struggling would include:

  • Airline companies and their budget competitors;
  • Retails and online sale sites;
  • Hair dressers and instant barber shops (the 10 min type);
  • Website developers and online site self-design tools;
  • Movie rental shops and online movie servers (also worth mentioning is the transition from cassettes to dvds)…

The internet is a major disruption to business models which for a long time have predominated. Businesses in various fields have seen progressive disruption but it is only the beginning, 5G internet wireless technology for instance will soon see a new wave of disruptions by allowing services which were before not practical…

Do you have a well established business model? If so, beware of falling into the comfort zone of being so confident that you may miss-out on developing trends that may quickly become serious risk factors to the survival of your business. Keep track, prepare a defense and react if necessary…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

bluestrike logo