Robot-sloth monitors environment in the rhythm of nature

promo of robot sloth covering environment

Lazy robot

Robots seem to always be associated with faster, more agile, stronger behaviors, and so on.

But in nature, nothing is so rushed. Thus, monitoring the environment is a better job for robots that are persistent, smooth, silent, and so on.

It was in thinking that a trio of roboticists from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA created a "lazy-robot."

Suspended in a cable network, to cover large areas, the robot only moves to collect data when it detects environmental variations, such as changes in weather or chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Or it can be programmed to crawl slowly through the cables, like the lazy beast that gives it its name, without scaring the area residents it may be trying to observe.

In addition to following the rhythm of nature, the fact of not being shaken all the time without necessity means that the robot spends very little energy. The energy is supplied by batteries, recharged by a small photovoltaic panel, which allows the robot to stay in the environment for long periods of time without maintenance.

Robot with cable movement

The construction of the lazy robot is simple, with all the structural parts made in a 3D printer.

But the movement in a network of cables scattered through a forest gave work.

Robot-sloth monitors environment in the rhythm of nature

Native sloth moving through the cable system where the robot will be tested. [Image: M. Zachariah Peery]

"It's a tricky move and you have to do it right to provide a fail-safe transition. Making sure the switches work well for long periods of time is really the greater challenge, "said researcher Gennaro Notomista.

Mechanically, the sloth robot consists of two bodies connected by an electrically controlled hinge. Each body houses a drive motor, connected to a rim with a tire. The use of locomotion wheels, as in cable cars, is simple, energy-efficient and safer than other types of locomotion studied, the team says.

Robot to observe the nature

"There's a lot we do not know about what actually happens under dense tree-covered areas," explained researcher Magnus Egerstedt. "Most of the time, SlothBot will hang there and, from time to time, it will move to a sunny spot to recharge the battery."

The first real-world tests will be done on a cocoa plantation in Costa Rica, where there is already a population of real lazy critters and a cable system ready.

"The cords used to move the cacao have become a highway for the sloths because the animals find them useful to move," Egerstedt said. "If all goes well, we'll install the SlothBots along the cables to monitor the sloths."


The SlothBot: A Novel Design for Wire-Traversing Robot Gennaro Notomist, Yousef Emam, Magnus Egerstedt
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters Vol. 4 Issue: 2
DOI: 10.1109 / LRA.2019.2899593

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