Envisioning Biomimicry Through an Ontological Lens Colleen K. Unsworth, Thibaut Houette, Sarah J. McInerney, Austin M. Garner, Peter H. Niewiarowski
in the Designs special issue “Advances in Biologically-Inspired Design” (McInerney et al., 2018). In addition to anticipating the users’ interaction with an ontology, its fundamental structure needs to be understood by interface developers if the goal is to display the most relevant information to the widest audience. As interface developers are not necessarily involved during development of the ontology, they do not always grasp the creators' vision, thus potentially missing crucial information. To combat this disconnect and streamline the process of making knowledge from an ontology more accessible to more people, ontology developers should not only be concerned with development of their ontology but should also consider how potential users may interact with it in the future. This would involve incorporating various perspectives or collaborating with interface designers in the development process.
Conclusions Ontologies with user-friendly interfaces have exciting potential to contribute to the future of the bio-inspired design process, as well as to future biomimicry research and innovation efforts. The use of the ontological framework to convert information into knowledge has the potential to be valuable
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in biomimicry as an ontology can be used to translate abstracted principles between biology, engineering, and design. Ontologies for biomimicry could be used to not only suggest potential solutions to biomimicry questions but could be further utilized as exploratory tools. Exploring ontologies from multiple angles and access points would make use of the diverse knowledge housed within and increase their accessibility to practitioners from a variety of disciplines. Moreover, beyond their potential for usefulness as standalone tools, ontologies could be integrated into larger existing biomimicry tools and projects. Our work to interface the BMO is only one of many examples of ways to interface an ontology. Every ontology can be uniquely structured with different content based on different core relationships, and each can have multiple entry points and interpretations. We hope that our E2BMO user interface will soon be joined by the development of other ontology front-end interfaces, and that biomimicry practitioners will be inspired to create new ways to interact with ontologies and other biomimicry tools in the future.⊗ We would appreciate your feedback on this article: