As animals have quite efficient forms of locomotion, we have seen scientists develop only animal robots all this while. But, plants just sit there without undergoing any experiments as they don’t move from one place to another.
Europe’s PLANTOID project is in the process of developing a tree like robot whose descendants might be actually useful in exploring planets other than Earth. Yes, Italian researchers are studying stationary robots who move their leaves to sense the environment and whose roots could test the soil. They have a strong feeling that this robot can find a wide range of applications in medicine or space.
Barbara Mazzolai of the Italian Institute of Technology said that their aim was to design a new generation of ICT hardware and software technologies inspired by plants.
The researchers have already developed a 3D printed prototype robotic trunk which has leaves which with the ability to sense the environment and the roots which grow and change direction. To avoid damage by toxic substances, the roots are equipped with sensitive sensors at the tip which respond to incoming signals and thereby prevent them from crashing into obstacles. The other root has a rotating tip and it is able to penetrate into the soil.
Comiong to the base of the PLANTOID robot, it is actually a 3D-printed plastic trunk which houses a microprocessor. And, it has 4 plastic branches extending from its sides. The leaves of these branches have the ability to measure factors like temperature and humidity, respond to touch and gravity, and also react to chemical elements in the surroundings.
Currently, the PLANTOID robot just serves as a proof-of-concept model. However, the technology developed for its roots could lead to better tools used in locating victims buried in debris at disaster sites. The complete PLANTOID-type robots could also be used to monitor things like pollutant levels on Earth and also to collect information on other planets. Researchers are still looking into adding further functions to the roots and devising ways in which the robots could draw power from the environment.