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The Future of 'Companion Plant Robot'

The Future of 'Companion Plant Robot'

Is there a plant with the appearance of a robot? There is no end to the transformation of robots! The Future of 'Companion Plant Robot'

As the new coronavirus infection-19 (Covid-19) has passed the year, many people are complaining of depression. It's called 'Corona Blue'. One of the ways to overcome this feeling of depression is the pet plant (companion plant). It may not be understood at first glance that a single plant soothes a person's loneliness. However, the stability that green living things provide is beyond imagination. Although it does not show an immediate reaction like a companion animal, plants also give vitality to the house by giving various biological reactions such as withers, disease, and bloofms depending on how the owner treats them.

A cute robot plant? Plants and robots are combined

What if these companion plants were combined with a robot? Recently, companion plants have appeared in combination with robots. The robot HEXA, developed by VINCROSS, a Chinese robotics venture, was developed to move by sensing bioelectrochemical signals of plants. Wearing a plant like a hat, the robot resembles a spider. The hexa-robot, which moves freely from sitting and standing, can move to a sunny place by itself when photosynthesis is necessary by receiving signals from plants.
Hexa robot, which is made with an open source operating system based on Linux, one of the computer operating systems, can climb rocks and stairs skillfully in addition to flat ground. This is thanks to the optical sensor, infrared transmitter, distance sensor and camera attached to the body of the robot. Not only this. This robot is also capable of showing various reactions to gain empathy from its owner. When they need water, they move to ask for water while rolling their feet, and when they are working at a desk, they shake their head from side to side and make a gesture as if they want to play.

Companion plant robots that communicate and interact with plants

If there is a plant robot that moves like a spider with six legs, how about a 'automobile plant robot' that moves using wheels? In 2018, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in the United States unveiled 'Elowan', a companion plant robot that combines a robot and a plant. Elowan acts like a hexa robot by sensing bioelectrochemical signals from plants. Elowan responds and moves by receiving plant biosignals through 'silver electrodes' connected to plants.
n order to grow plants well, it is necessary to create an appropriate environment for plants, such as light, water, and soil. 'Soybot', developed by a research team at Perdue University in Indiana, is a smart plant robot developed to grow plants well. Soibot has various sensors to create an optimal environment for plants to grow well. The soibot has a light sensor and wheels that measure the state of the light, so it keeps moving in the direction of a brighter light. The light sensor is responsible for searching and finding sunlight or LED lights in the room. There is also a moisture sensor, so even the owner who forgets the watering cycle can raise the Soibot with confidence.

The appearance of the Soibot is similar to that of a robot vacuum cleaner. This is because it looks like a robot vacuum cleaner with a flowerpot placed on the disk-shaped floor. Just like a robot vacuum cleaner moving around, the soibot traverses the living room in search of light. Originally, Soibot was created for gallery exhibitions. Soibot has been developing since it first appeared at an art exhibition in 2014. Dr. Shannon McMullan of Purdue University, who developed the soibot, said, “Now, the soibot will not be a gallery, but a part of the space inside the house.”
It's not just the cute plant robots. A plant robot that has recently appeared is a biomimetic robot that resembles a terrifying fly-hell. Fly Hell is a 'carnivorous plant' that attracts and eats insects such as flies and butterflies by opening sharp needle-shaped leaves that close like a trap. There are long sensory hairs in the leaves of the flytrap surrounded by sharp thorns. When this sensory moe fly sits down, the flytrap closes both leaves to prevent food from escaping, and then slowly digests the fly.

In February, a research team at Dongnan University in China unveiled a prototype of a flexible robot inspired by the Paris Hell. The robot is made of a flat polymer called liquid crystal elastomer (LCE). This plate changes shape according to temperature changes, and flattens and then bends according to pressure, just like a fly-hell changes according to the stimulus of the surrounding environment.

A research team in Korea also made a robot that mimics the principle and shape of a fly-hell. The fly-fly robot developed by the research team is connected horizontally on one layer and vertically on the other, like the fibers of a fly-fly leaf. When an insect approaches the robot leaf and the robot recognizes it, the shape memory alloy spring is pulled between the two leaves and the leaf is closed.

Such a fly-and-fly mimic robot is unsuitable to be used as a companion plant. However, these robots are expected to be applied to various biomimetic device research fields in the future, such as the forceps or wings of micro-robots, and artificial muscles implanted in damaged areas of patients with facial paralysis.
Meanwhile, there are robots built to protect endangered plants. Sloth Bot, developed by robotics researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology last year, is a robot developed to conserve endangered plants. The robot, which appeared at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in the United States, was developed by mimicking the principle and shape of a sloth. The sloth bot moves along a cable suspended between large trees like a sloth, and detects information about plant growth conditions such as temperature, weather, and carbon dioxide level and sends it to the research team.

Sloth bots are programmed to move only when needed, using a sloth-like, low-energy lifestyle. It is designed to move in search of sunlight when power is insufficient and to replenish the insufficient battery through solar panels. Sloth Bot is showing the face of a new plant robot, providing the necessary information to protect rare and endangered ecosystems through robotics.

The future that robotics fused with plants shows to mankind

Green nature is the basis for human life to continue. However, the natural environment is being polluted and destroyed day by day. At this time, the development of robotics combined with plants seems to be a green light of hope for mankind in the future. This is because robotic technology can be effectively used to protect not only urban plants but also wild plants, such as plants grown in small pots to giant smart farms.

Although it is still awkward, the world in which humans, nature, and AI robots live together will be a picture of the near future unfolding before us. It is expected that robotics, which is combined with plants in various ways, will come to us in another new form.