Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Biomimetics Lab



Biomimetics involves drawing inspiration from nature to develop new technologies. Living organisms and natural phenomena have certain behaviours and properties which let them exist in harmony with the surrounding environment. By understanding these natural processes, we are developing technologies to venture into new territories.


Soft wearable game controller

Conventional human-computer interfaces are very restrictive, because they are designed to be operated on a desktop, by a person sitting in a chair. As a consequence, users are desk-bound, instead of enjoying an immersive interaction.


We have addressed these limitations with a wearable game controller for the popular 3D computer game “Doom”. The glove-shaped device captures finger movements with soft stretch sensors to change weapons, and uses an accelerometer for left- and right, backward- and forward movement. Players can now interact with Doom through body motion, which adds an exciting physical component to the game experience.

Programmable rubber keyboard

A novel sensing method uses multiple sensing frequencies to target different regions of the same dielectric elastomer to simultaneously detect position and pressure using only a single pair of connections. The dielectric elastomer is modelled as an RC transmission line and its internal voltage and current distribution used to determine localised capacitance changes resulting from contact and pressure.

No modifications of the sensing hardware or the dielectric elastomer are required to increase the number of locations. This sensing method is demonstrated on a multi-touch musical keyboard made from a single low cost carbon-based dielectric elastomer with 4 distinct musical tones mapped along a length of 0.1m.

Project Taniwha

The Biomimetics Lab is host to the Southern Hemisphere’s only human-powered submarine. The fin-propelled ‘Taniwha’ outdid expectations at the 2015 International Submarine Race in Maryland, USA. With a top speed of 3.65 knots Taniwha finished first in its class and got an innovation award for its unique automated ballasting system.

Taniwha now has its sights on the European International Submarine Race hosted in Portsmouth, England in July 2016. The team will be competing against teams from Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Oman, United Kingdom, and the United States. If you would like to support our team check out the ‘Give a Little’ page:

For more, go to the Taniwha website.