James McLurkin isn’t the most polished of presenters, but he is extremely interesting. In a plug for SolidWorks, McLurkin stated, “I’m not just a SolidWorks speaker. I’m also a client.” He is an engineer and roboticist specializing in swarm robotics. He demonstrated his swarm of little micelike robots at SolidWorks World this year. He talked about how they move round within the group, including comments about communication limitations between of a swarm. Though his technology and research may one day lead to the great robot revolution, he stated that will not likely occur in our time. “Only a handful of robots can open a door, and none if you have to pull [it open].” He gleefully added, “If the robot revolution happened tomorrow, you’d be perfectly safe just by closing your door.” I still say the robot revolution will one day come, and I welcome our future metallic overlords (once they are in power, of course).
McLurkin talked for some time about “Nerd Pride” and extolled engineers to release their nerd to the world. This can be done in a number of ways, such as giving nerdy gifts, voting for education candidates, helping out schools and related projects, teaching, etc.
At the press conference that followed, McLurkin was asked about the value of simulation versus real world. He answered, “the problem with simulation is that you can only test what you put in.” He also talked about the difference of biological inspiration and biological mimicry. To him, biological inspiration is understanding and applying how nature works; biological mimicry is simply copying a successful system within nature. Though I understand his general point, I do not think he fully made clear any meaningful distinction as they would both seem to be interrelated.