“Autonomous garden sphere” rolls around in search of sunlight

Designers at a London University have built the prototype of an "autonomous spherical garden" – a collection of greenery inside the frame of a geodesic dome that has the ability to roll itself around in search of sunlight.

"Hortum Machina, B" is the work of the William Victor Camilleri and Danilo Sampaio from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London (UCL).

Their idea was to extend the concept of autonomous vehicles to the vegetative world. However, in this case, it is the plants that do the driving. The team note that although flora lack nervous systems "they can, much like animals, become electro-chemically stimulated by (their) environment".

The designers have wired these botanical reflexes into the control-loop of the sphere’s "autonomous robotic ecosystem", thereby allowing for autonomous travel. In fact, the plants are able to move the exoskeleton "collectively and democratically".

The sphere will allow plants to move around their world in a way that resembles animal locomotion, and they will be able to release the seeds as they go. The sphere may also be able to communicate with detached environmental sensors that measure the external conditions and inform the plants of a potentially suitable location to head for.

The Hortum is partly a homage to the ideas of celebrated US engineer Buckminster Fuller, who pioneered the idea of the geodesic dome – the B in its name is an allusion to him.

Hortum B has been tested in London, but it is unclear when it will freely roam the streets in search of sunshine.

Read more about the project here.

Images via the Interactive Architecture Lab

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