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BY HANIYA RAE

Meet Vinobot and Vinoculer, a duo that can visualize how plants adapt to their surroundings.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In a cornfield in Missouri, two robots, one stacked on top of the other, file down the narrow rows. As they move, they collect information about the plants using various sensors—enough to create a 4-D graphic model on a computer. By building these models, scientists can show how plants react and adapt to their surrounding conditions. Someday, more robots like these might toil in cities and forests as well, helping humans determine how a plant species is responding to climate change.

“We wanted these robots to investigate different species of plants,” says Gui DeSouza, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri’s Vision-Guided and Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. “One plant may respond better to flood conditions, another to extreme heat. We’re essentially trying to correlate the plant’s phenotype, or the plant’s observable behavior during an environmental change, to its shape and physiology.”

DeSouza’s research as an engineer centers on formable objects, such as plant leaves, and devising ways to calculate their measurements. Leaves, he says, constantly move and sway, making their surface area and structure (more…)

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