Growing Robots!

Jumping kangaroo-inspired robots, soft flexible robots inspired by the elephant’s trunk.

What next?

The idea of using animals as inspiration for robots has fascinated me! Yet, pushing the way we design robots even further might require us to look at the world of plants.

Plants as the inspiration you might think. Plants are sessile and they do not move!

But plants grow and that might change the way we design robots!

The book Planta Sapiens – Unmasking Plant Intelligence by Paco Calvo with Natalie Lawrence has been a late-evening companion for the past couple of weeks. This book challenges the way you think about plants!

A GrowBot is a robot that functions like a plant and not only might this type of robot help us overcome certain problems it might also change the way we look at plants. It opens up new links between biology and technology.

Your garden or local park might be filled with inspiration.

“Almost every element of plant anatomy, it seems, can be turned into some kind of climbing device. The cheese plant climbs with its roots, sending them out from its nodes, the places on its stem from which leaves normally spring, and wrapping them around the trunk of its host. European ivy sprouts roots all along the underside of its stems. They are so thin that they can cling to any tiny rugosity. Honeysuckle uses its own stem, winding it around the thicker stem of others. The glory lilies of tropical Africa and Asia have elongated the tips of their leaves into little mobile wires with which they hook themselves on to any support they can find.” (Attenborough 1995:161)”

My favourite fruit is passionfruit and this plant use tendrils to cleverly saves energy by not investing energy in the growth of support tissues instead they use tendrils to wind themselves upwards to the sunlight. Their tendrils are flower buds but other plants make tendrils of leaves or shoots. The tendrils make it possible for a plant to grow up on cylindrical things, like other plants. But there is also a passionfruit, Passiflora discophora, that uses sticky pads on the ends of the tendrils to help them climb on smooth surfaces.

By Jon Sullivan –, Public Domain,

Paco writes:

“If we can truly understand what it is like to be a plant, we will learn much about what it means to be a human, and how we might be ourselves in ways that work with the organic world, rather than destroying it. . . to draw on the sapience of plants in order to better comprehend the nature of our own minds.”

The new types of robots will be small and they will be growing.

Plants can also provide inspiration for repairing structures and self-growing buildings! This fascinating topic will continue in the next blog post!

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