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Bucky Fuller Garden Sphere has ‘Intelligence,’ Moves Around Based on Electro-Chemical Stimulation

Or as the designers phrase it, it’s an ‘autonomous robotic ecosystem.’ Watch:

Harnessing the collective intelligence of plant behaviour, the reEarth project explores new forms of bio-cooperative interaction between people and nature, within the built environment. While plants lack a nervous system, they can, much like animals, become electro-chemically stimulated by their surrounding environment. Through the study of plant electro-physiology, we have wired their primitive ‘intelligence’ into the control-loop of an autonomous robotic ecosystem. Half garden, half machine – a new cybernetic lifeform we’ve named Hortum machina, B.

Echoing the architecture of Buckminster Fuller, the geodesic sphere, is both exoskeleton and ecological iconography. Its core of twelve garden modules, each carrying native British species on outwardly-extending linear actuators allow the structure to become mobile by shifting its centre-of-gravity. Electro-physiological sensing of the state of individual plants collectively and democratically controls decision-making of the orientation of the structure and its mobility. In the near future context of driverless cars, autonomous flying vehicles, and seemingly endless other forms of intelligent robotics co-habiting our built environment. Hortum machina, B is a speculative urban cyber-gardener.

The Interactive Architecture Lab is a multi-disciplinary research group at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL). Research revolves around the Behaviour and Interaction of Things, Environments and their Inhabitants. The reEarth Project is led by William Victor Camilleri & Danilo Sampaio, and supervised by Ruairi Glynn. Parametric Design and Fabrication was supported by William Bondin, Francois Mangion and Thomas Powell.

From the Interactive Architecture Lab, they have a lot more information on their website for this project including early prototypes, reference notes, and building-of videos and documentation.


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