In my most recent moonlight studies of plant intelligence and further development of robotics systems, personal emphasis has been to explore both the hidden world inside the awesome existence of fascinating creatures, while also extending their own exploration of the world outside. Though well known and compelling, plant intelligence studies often do not leave the lab in the sense that most experiments are performed through advanced processes, and emphasis is on the conceptual. The single major goal for the Terrapod family of plantoids is to bridge the gap between a tangible and hackable model to the amazing scientific concepts behind plant intelligence and communication studies.
V1 Parvus Mundus tackled many if the initial engineering challenges of interfacing a small ecosystem to an outer dimension. In order to initiate behaviour dictated by a single data source, or collection of data sources and react to them instantly, an event based Arduino sketch achieved reliable results that provide a reasonable amount of ability for the plantoid Terrapod to react to its environment. Parvus Mundus also filled up a standard Arduino Pro Mini very quickly, and remains an extensive amount of labor and resource to produce each time on the Reprap, i.e. 9ish hour print, hacked servos, design for tertiary parts, prototype low voltages driver system, etc.
Rimor Mundus takes the challenge of an efficient and accessible build for a home robotics experimenter to create an environment to study, hack, grow, and evolve. The elements of locomotion and power systems can be wired with simple sensors connected to the organic elements to produce behaviour based on the internal environment of the plantoid, and use this natural method as the impetus with which it explores the world.
TerraPod v2 also introduces separate analog and digital solutions. Analog enthusiasts might appreciate the inclusion of several BEAM circuits that can be used at once for separate systems. The linkage legs for instance may be controlled by a Herbie photovore circuit, while the solar sail positions itself with a photopopper circuit for best charging for example. In terms of materials, the overall 3D printing time with the new chassis and leg pieces is cut in half, and the electronics are scaled down to be affordable and manufacturable using more inexpensive and in some cases recyclable or surplussed materials.
A parallel platform can be adopted with a digital microcontroller, with simple sensor conditions being monitored and behaviours being written into events. A digital platform also offers the intrigue of articulated sensory conditions that break open the possibilities of sensing more and more activity of the plant organism at the heart of these new creatures. Data such as soil conditions, plant stress levels, air quality, and myriad other interesting points can be sensed together and translated to any decision and result one can express in a few lines of code.
In our continuing efforts to bring a desktop plantoid robotics platform that presents an affordable and technology toward the willing citizen scientist, we are very happy to (softly) announce that the official Beta Kit version of the plantoid TerraPod family is currently scheduled within the next few days. Pre-orders on the first customizable kits are available on our store page.
Plantoid Robot Rimor Mundus TerraPod v2 by David Ultis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.