AI News, Robot-Plant Biohybrids Growing in European Laboratories

Robot-Plant Biohybrids Growing in European Laboratories

Flora Robotica is a project funded by the European Union whose goal is “to develop and investigate closely linked symbiotic relationships between robots and natural plants and to explore the potentials of a plant-robot society able to produce architectural artifacts and living spaces.” The overall idea seems to be that it would be cool to enhance the capabilities of plants by mixing in some robotics, and vice versa, combining plant growth with the structure and mobility of robots.

What the European researchers want to do is basically usingrobots to provide support and guidance to plants, so those plants will be healthier and more robust, and they’ll also be somewhat trainable: They’ll react to the stimuli coming from the robots, allowing you to incorporate them into living, hybrid structures like benches, walls, and roofs.

Mary Katherine Heinrich: Interactive Self-Modelling of Architectural Species: A Simulation-Based Search for Learned Objectives and Behavioral Novelty in Unbounded Complex Systems

The focus of Mary Katherine's PhD research within the flora robotica project is in using simulation as a medium to explore and design human-algorithm collaboration for continuous definition of architecture-led growth objectives for physical systems (both biological and robotic).  The PhD endeavors to extend the state-of-the-art in distributed robotic control in responsive, interactive, or behavioral architecture.

In order to achieve productive human-algorithm collaboration in this self-modelling and definition of objectives, the human collaborators (the architectural designers and/or the system users) must be able to effectively, reliably, and reproducibly engage with modelling representations of the architecture's contexts and possible outcomes. The contexts, consisting primarily of complex dynamic systems, will be modelled according to a collaboratively developed multimodal paradigm in which the context systems are simultaneously modeled with unbounded time but bounded space, and with unbounded space but bounded time.

The research also develops modes of representation for the possible outcomes of a designed architectural system, using embodied interaction HCI to augment models, allowing human collaborators to engage with a multi-dimensional array of simulations representing a scenario’s full scope of possible morphological and behavioral designs and their continuous changes over time. This simulation-based approach aspires to help the human collaborators in exploring design nuance, discovering commonalities between quantitatively formalized objectives and those without metrics, and leveraging designer understanding of the designed system's emergent relationships between various real-world systems and sets of non-human stakeholders.

Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

This project's objective is to develop and to investigate closely linked symbiotic relationships between robots and natural plants and to explore the potentials of a plant-robot society able to produce architectural artifacts and living spaces.

In contrast to top-down control, we explore a developmental plasticity of bio-hybrid systems, where robots and plans grow together from sprout to adult stage and form a closely co-dependent and self-organized system.

The robot-plant organisms live in a human-inhabited environment and through interaction with humans grow into architectural structures (e.g., walls, roofs, benches) providing functionality such as shade, air quality control, and stress relief.


Robots and plants are being intricately linked into a new type of living technology that its creators believe could be used to grow a house.

As the system grows over long periods in interaction with humans, the research team hopes it will form meaningful architectural forms, including eventually a house.

Hamann believes a full house will take 40 years to grow, but his team is already starting to create parks where people can design their own plants by mixing seeds, scaffolds and electronics.

Some are loose and let light inside for plants to grow within the structure, while others are woven more tightly making the scaffold stronger for plants and sensors to sit outside.

The different tightnesses of the braids could also help researchers make bendable arms that are controlled by robots to move side to side and extend and retract – similar to the way a puppet’s arms move when someone pulls a string.

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