Project Lets Houseplant Control Robot Arm Equipped With Machete

Credits: David Bowen

What would happen if you entrusted a living plant to commandeer a robotic arm equipped with a machete?

A renowned robotics artist has addressed this critical query through his installation, Plant Machete, which seeks to provide an answer.

The philodendron in the installation acts as the source of instruction for the robotic arm, with its electrical signals being received and processed by an open-source microcontroller. By harnessing its live responses, the robotic arm can react accordingly.

The joint motions of an industrial robot with a machete attached to it are tracked in real-time through specialized software. This data is mapped to provide intricate control over the robot’s movements.

The movements of the machete are managed using input from the plant, with sensors that resemble the circular EEG applicators found in hospitals.

This setup enables a symbiotic connection between the two, evidenced by the artist-provided video of the robotic arm controlled by the plant.

This is similar to the readings of vital signs such applicators measure in hospital patients, making this an accurate comparison for explaining the plant’s machete-controlling mechanism.

It appears that the philodendron’s movements are not driven by any form of meaningful intent, as there is no evidence to suggest this. Instead, the signals generated by the plant are likely haphazardly directing the robotic arm, much like a random number generator.

In recent years, several roboticists have made strides in the field of cyborg botany, developing machines that can aid plants in their growth and development.

For example, in 2018, a Chinese roboticist created a spider-like robot to help move a plant around to get optimal sun exposure. Later that year, researchers at MIT unveiled a self-moving houseplant that they made using sophisticated technology that shifts itself around on two wheels.

Robots that arm plants are a revolutionary concept, offering a refreshing take on our relentless quest for progress at the cost of planet health. It’s an intriguing idea that could potentially have lasting implications.

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