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Effects of Abstraction on Selecting Relevant Biological Phenomena for Biomimetic Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Tao Feng, Hyunmin Cheong, L. H. Shu

University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Paper No. DETC2014-35296, pp. V007T07A004; 11 pages
doi:10.1115/DETC2014-35296
From:
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME

abstract

The natural-language approach to identifying biological analogies exploits the existing format of much biological knowledge, beyond databases created for biomimetic design. However, designers may need to select analogies from search results, during which biases may exist towards: specific words in descriptions of biological phenomena, familiar organisms and scales, and strategies that match preconceived solutions.

Therefore, we conducted two experiments to study the effect of abstraction on overcoming these biases and selecting biological phenomena based on analogical similarities. Abstraction in our experiments involved replacing biological nouns with hypernyms. The first experiment asked novice designers to choose between a phenomenon suggesting a highly useful strategy for solving a given problem, and another suggesting a less-useful strategy, but featuring bias elements. The second experiment asked novice designers to evaluate the relevance of two biological phenomena that suggest similarly useful strategies to solve a given problem.

Neither experiment demonstrated the anticipated benefits of abstraction. Instead, our abstraction led to: 1) novice designers associating non-abstracted words to design problems and 2) increased difficulty in understanding descriptions of biological phenomena. We recommend investigating other ways in which abstraction can be implemented when designing similar tools or techniques that aim to support biomimetic design and other design-by-analogy work.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Design , Biomimetics

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