Robotics and ICT technologies inspired by plants

Barbara Mazzolai

Centre for Micro-BioRobotics@SSSA, Pontedera, Italy

Title: Robotics and ICT technologies inspired by plants


Plants have evolved very robust growth behaviours (tropisms) to respond to changes in their environment and a network of highly sensorized branching roots to efficiently explore the soil volume, mining minerals and up-taking water. In the root apparatus, each single root has to move through the substrate, orienting along the gravity vector, negotiating obstacles, and locating resources. This behaviour is partially achieved by osmotic-based actuation system located in the tip of each root, the apex, which senses several chemical and physical parameters from the surrounding environment and mediates the direction of root growth accordingly. These features represent an interesting source of inspiration to design, develop, and validate a new generation of robotics and ICT hardware and software technologies. New concepts of artefacts inspired from plant roots, called PLANTOIDS and endowed with distributed sensing, actuation, and intelligence for tasks of environmental exploration and monitoring will be presented. The new technologies expected to result from the study of plant roots concern energy-efficient actuation systems, chemical and physical micro-sensors, kinematics models, and distributed, adaptive control in networked structures with local information and communication capabilities.

Contribution to the Workshop “Smart Solution from the Plant Kingdom”