Leonardo da Vinci, a forerunner of biomimetics

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During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci looked for technical solutions inspired by living beings. At the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, an exposition associates his works with the most recent achievements in biorobotics, in particular those of the École des Mines de Nantes.

Yet another exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci, the genius of the Renaissance ? Not exactly. From October 23 to August 18, 2013, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, emphasizes the specific method of the famous inventor through six themes (Transform motion, Prepare for war, Inspired by living beings, Imagine the flight, Improve manufacturing, Unify knowledge). “To most people, Leonardo da Vinci remains the model of the inventor, explains Éric Lapie, curator of the exhibition. We want the public to discover his method, which was very outstanding despite being rooted in his era.”

As a man of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci is in everything, developping his talent in such different areas as engineering, anatomy, physics, drawing or painting. Hence an interdisciplinarity which has become very rare nowadays since every science has its own private preserve. Besides, Leonardo da Vinci is also interested in observing nature and living beings. “He explored thoroughly this area as his designs of flying machines demonstrate, remarks Éric Lapie. At that time, very few people were interested in flying. Leonardo da Vinci studied anatomy and how birds fly, but also their environment, to imagine his machines. He can be considered as the forerunner of the modern technologies based on biomimetics, which we call “bio-inspiration”.”


To illustrate how modern the method of Leonardo da Vinci was, the Cité des Sciences wanted to produce contemporary scientific achievements next to the works of the genius of the Renaissance. Quite naturally, Maud Livrozet, museologist at the exhitions department of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, turned to the École des Mines de Nantes wich had hosted, in April 6-8, 2011, an international workshop dedicated to biomimetics robots. She met the team in charge of the RAAMO project, in particular Alexis Girin. It became clear very quickly that their work was fitting the exhibition needs. “The RAAMO project embraces the most important areas that we want to illustrate, explains Maud Livrozet. On the one hand, it shows the capabilities of robotics, like moving or being autonomous, and on the other, the capabilities of the sensors inspired by the senses, like allowing motion or detecting molecules.”

Thus, the space dedicated to the theme “Inspired by living beings” presents three of the famous articulated vertebrae of the RAAMO device as well as the electrosensitive module of the european project ANGELS (ANGuilliform robot with ELectric Sense), which is coordinated by l’IRCCyN, under the guidance of Frédéric Boyer.

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Being, in a way, the heir of Leonardo da Vinci, this laboratory in which the École des Mines de Nantes is deeply involved inquires a promising area, believes Éric Lapie : “The bioinspiration is paving the way for competitive advantages which will overtake established technologies. It will generate lighter and resource-saving innovations which will harmonize economic and environmental requirements.”

- To know more about the early stages of the « anguilliform robot », please refer to issues 74 and 88 of Talents des Mines.

* RAAMO stands for Robot Anguille Autonome en Milieu opaque (Autonomous Anguilliform Robot in Opaque Environment)


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