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bionics

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

Bionics is the replication of biological systems by mechanical and electronic systems. Physician and researcher Jack Steele coined the term bionics in 1958 to describe the study of biological organisms to solve engineering problems. 

In recent years, advancements in personal electronics have spurred new developments in bionics. Today, artificial hands are being made with sensors in the fingertips that can monitor and adjust the strength of the hand's grip. In 2018, IBM engineers demonstrated a brain-machine interface that combines deep-learning algorithms with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system components to train a robotic arm to operate by thought.

Bionics is often confused with cybernetics, the study of control mechanisms in human and machine systems. While the aim of bionics is to explore new ideas for building mechanical and electronic systems, cybernetics focuses on seeking the explanation for a living organism's behavior.

Bionics is also sometimes confused with bioengineering, which refers to using living things to perform industrial tasks. For example, using bacteria in paper batteries to supply electrical energy would be considered an advancement in bioengineering, not bionics.

This was last updated in August 2018

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