Aug 30, 2017 | By Benedict

Citizen Scientific Workshop (CSW) has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Plantoids, 3D printable robots that put your plants on wheels. Each 3D printed device seeks out sunlight and fresh air to give its green passenger the best chance of good health.

Ever feel like you just don’t have the magic touch when it comes to plants? Tired of seeing your herbs and flowers wilt and die at the first sign of adversity? These adorable Plantoids could be just what you need.

Created by Citizen Scientific Workshop and now the subject of an active Kickstarter campaign, the Plantoids Robotics kit is an inventive solution to the challenge of keeping plants alive and healthy. The Plantoid robot is essentially a tiny, autonomous 3D printed vehicle for a plant, allowing the usually static flora to move around.

As well as looking great, this movement can be massively beneficial for plants. For greenery that requires lots of sunlight, for example, a Plantoid robot can ferry the plant around a room in order to capture the most sunlight possible.

But the movement is far from random. A combination of clever sensing equipment and artificial intelligence allows the robot to know where it should go to benefit the plant, while its wheels and tracks can even handle some gentle outdoor terrain for maximum coverage.

“Using an Arduino-based sensory suite to provide data on the quality of life of its plant center, a Plantoid can autonomously explore its environment in search of the best location for its own prosperity,” explains CSW’s David Ultis.

And it’s not just sunlight that counts. The Plantoids Base Kit contains sensing equipment for measuring soil moisture, air temperature and humidity, ambient light, and air quality, all of which play a big part in the health of a plant. And while the wheeled robot can’t necessarily find areas of differing air pressure within a room, it can set off an alarm (speaker and LED light) to inform you of certain factors that need looking at.

All things told, it’s no great stretch of the imagination to describe these weird vehicles as “plant-brained robots,” as CSW does.

Being in kit form, Plantoids also make a great project for the classroom, giving students a chance to learn about robotics and biology at the same time.

“With Plantoid Robots, we are bringing new educational activities to homes, classrooms, and gardens across the world,” Ultis says. “Our initial pilot project was held in partnership with our local botanical garden, and it served to change and excite the perspective of what kind of education can be fostered around technology and conservation, while making cool robots in their perfect habitat.”

You don’t have to be in school to benefit from a Plantoid robot though. Anyone with an interest in plants and DIY projects could probably have a lot of fun with these little robots, especially those curious about robotics and AI. Incindentally, GEEK.COM reports that the bodies of the Plantoid robots are made from 3D printed parts, but the Kickstarter campaign offers no further information on the materials or processes used. From what we can see, the flat translucent pieces look like the work of a laser cutter, but the smaller connecting parts could certainly have been 3D printed.

With nine days to go, the Plantoid Kickstarter has raised more than $3,000 of its $5,000 goal, suggesting the project could go right down to the wire. The early bird starter kit is available for $64, while more complete packages are available for teachers and advanced users.

There’s another good reason to back the Plantoid project too: if the campaign hits that $5,000 mark, CSW will release its more advanced unit, the PlantoidX. These are described as “much larger, research-oriented robots.”

The PlantoidX upgrades the computing capabilities of the Plantoid with a Raspberry Pi or ODROID single-board computer, and uses software called MyRobotLab to expand its range of functions. Users can also make use of a Plantoid smartphone app to control the robot manually.

Plantoid or PlantoidX, we’d love to see these plant-brained cyborgs scooting around our house and garden. Let’s just hope they don’t become sentient and take over.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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