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Posts Tagged ‘Robotics’

University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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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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This presentation of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) Realities and Realms colloquium examines how landscape architecture is ingesting computation, robotics, and the reams of data that designed environments now produce second by second. In two lecture videos titled Realities and Realms: Responsive Technologies in Ecological Systems, the GSD invites practitioners, researchers, and academics to envision how “anthropogenic perception and technological mediation” will meet in landscape design. (more…)

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