Slow-moving SlothBot begins life as a long-term environmental observer
A sloth-inspired robot has swung into action in Atlanta’s Botanical Garden, albeit at a very slow pace. The SlothBot built by engineers at Georgia Tech is designed to choose its movements wisely, operating in a highly energy-efficient manner to hang around the canopy monitoring animals, plants and environmental conditions, with an eye on assisting conservation efforts around the world.
We got our first look at the SlothBot last year, when the Georgia Tech engineers first showed off a prototype of the sluggish but power-saving robot designed to move like its namesake of the natural world.
In its current form, the three-foot-long (0.9-m) machine consists of a 3D-printed shell that houses its motor, gearing, battery system and a suite of sensors, all powered by an attached solar panel. The robot is programmed to slowly move up and down a cable strung between two trees, using its onboard sensors to track things like temperature, weather or carbon dioxide levels, with the kind of patience needed to form a long-term picture.
“SlothBot embraces slowness as a design principle,” says Magnus Egerstedt, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech. “That’s not how robots are typically designed today, but being slow and hyper-energy efficient will allow SlothBot to linger in the environment to observe things we can only see by being present continuously for months, or even years.”
The researchers are currently demonstrating the capabilities of SlothBot in the canopy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Here it shuffles up and down 100-ft-long (30-m) cable, moving only when necessary and seeking out sunlight when it needs to recharge its batteries via solar.
The SlothBot will continue plying its trade in Atlanta for the next few months, with the team hoping to show how it can enlighten their understanding of the different factors that impact precious ecosystems and can help protect rare species. The researchers say that with further development SlothBot could tackle larger areas by switching from cable to cable.
“The most exciting goal we’ll demonstrate with SlothBot is the union of robotics and technology with conservation,” says Emily Coffey, vice president for conservation and research at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “We do conservation research on imperiled plants and ecosystems around the world, and SlothBot will help us find new and exciting ways to advance our research and conservation goals.”
You can hear more about the SlothBot in the video below.
Source: Georgia Tech