Investigation of current mechatronics systems as a basis for the robotic symbiont
We describe the mechatronics concept which is a combination of modular robot mechanics, actuators, and electronic sensor modules for detecting the state of plants tied together with open-source single-board computers. We outline the current concept itself and the background for the concept.
Evaluation of mechatronics prototype of the robotic symbiont including supporting software
Development of plant-robot hybrid organisms is a main driver in flora robotica. A broad range of hardware studies and developments has been investigated for such hybrids. Here, we present and evaluate the current hardware developments and their software control aspects. The consortium has limited the focus to braids as the basis structures for this robot symbiont, however, this still includes diverse investigations because these structures come with new challenges. These atypical robotic systems demand both novel approaches to material assemblage as well as novel approaches to control and actuation in order to develop and grow plant-robot hybrids in meaningful ways.
Plant-robot interaction mechanisms and distributed actuation system
Interaction between the three agent groups: structure, biological organisms, and robots is crucial for the development of plant-robot hybrid organisms in flora robotica. A broad range of hardware studies and developments has been investigated for such hybrid interactions.
Here we present and evaluate interaction mechanisms separated into sensing and actuation between agent groups in distributed actuation systems. Interaction is understood as bidirectional; sensing and actuation which can take place these two ways between three distinct parts of the hybrid namely, robots, plants and structures. Therefore we divide the field into a number of distinct (inter)actions as follows: Plants – Robots; Robots – Plants; Robots – Structures.
Additionally, we will report on the progress on the production of the braided structures themselves before the beginning of their lifetime in the hybrid.
Progress on Basic Models of Bio-Hybrid Organisms
An essential link between the two types of agents in our bio-hybrid system are the tropisms of plants. The tropisms determine the options of stimuli that we can choose from and that can be used by the robots to influence the plants. After an introduction to several relevant tropisms we discuss how the artificial part of the bio-hybrid system is modeled. We discuss two approaches of emulating the artificial growth processes that we are going to use in flora robotica. With alternative hardware for now, we emulate artificial growth in 2-d and in 3-d. We introduce an approach of modeling artificial growth in simulation to use methods of evolutionary computation. We discuss a simple model of plant growth and motion that is based on a strictly empircal approach and we mention several options of how to extend the model by additional sensor input. Finally, we report early efforts on how to integrate models of natural and artificial growth into a software tool.
Report on the final algorithms and plant-affection of bio-hybrid organism
Development of algorithms and experimental approaches for biohybrid systems are reported. We introduce the Vascular Morphogenesis Controller (VMC) to direct the growth of artificial structures. Another controller allows to steer a bean’s tip towards user-defined spatial targets. The presented control methods are combined with modeling techniques that apply to plant growth
and artificial growth and hence provide a good basis for a general design methodology for bio-hybrid growth systems. We report experiments with light, chemicals, and vibrations as examples of stimuli to influence plants in desired ways (motion, shape, function). Light of various wavelengths is used in the Plant Binary Decision Wall (PBDW) experiment, where autonomous robotic nodes use LEDs and proximity sensing to influence and interact with plants. The reported results are an important stepping stone of the project as they provide the basic methodology to develop bio-hybrids systems of natural plants and robots.
Report on the integration of algorithms on flora robotica and first tests
We report our development of algorithms and experimental approaches for bio-hybrid systems within flora robotica. We use different stimuli to influence plants in desired ways in terms of their motion, shape, and function and report the respective experiments.
We apply the Vascular Morphogenesis Controller (VMC) to direct the growth of articial structures. We use computer vision to construct a model of plant stem stiffening and motion dynamics by training an LSTM network. The LSTM network acts as a forward model predicting change in the plant, driving the evolution of neural network robot controllers. The evolved controllers augment the plants’ natural light-finding and tissue stiffening behaviors to avoid obstacles and grow desired shapes. As a benchmark task we choose obstacle avoidance.
We also report the Integrated Growth Projection (IGP) to simulate the combined results of our models. The reported results are an important stepping stone of the project as they provide the basic methodology to develop bio-hybrids systems of natural plants and robots.
Representations and design rules
We develop appropriate architectural representations (modeling methods, simulation and systems of notation) that integrate models of robot mechanics and its control with relevant biological models (e.g., projection of growth, leaf-cover and structural strength models) to support the design, envisioning and evaluation of architectural flora robotica propositions in terms of structural and
environmental performance and spatial potential. Data of flora robotica will be used to calibrate models and provide existing starting states from which to generate propositional simulations of growth towards desired architectural states. Architectural design rules derived from botanical rules of growth will be established.
Informing and steering growth of the plant symbiont requires goal state specications (the desired shape and performance of the plant/robot hybrid) that relate to appropriate construction logics. Architectural goal states and methods of construction will be examined at a range of spatial, temporal and collective scales, that is, individual & collections of flora robotica.
Two approaches will be developed:
1) Growing spaces – engaging with the full ‘growth career’ through continual reinterpretation of the system as it develops and matures. Propositions will be considered at multiple scales (states) and the transitions through scales (processes). Scales ranging from decoration, furniture, building component, building enclosure to landscape conditions will be considered.
2) Growing building components – steering growth towards defined target points with particular material, structural and aesthetic properties. The performance of building components will be discussed in comparison to those made from conventional materials.
This work has a reciprocal relation to the work in WP1.