Watch: Slow moving robots speed up conservation

Georgia Tech researchers prepare to install the SlothBot at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Shown are graduate research assistants Yousef Emam and Gennaro Notomista, professor and school chair Magnus Egerstedt, and research engineer Sean Wilson. Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

Robotics engineers recently built a robot — nicknamed “SlothBot” — that moves as slow as a sloth in order to linger above the trees and monitor plants and wildlife. Researchers say the new technology can help save some of the world’s most endangered species. The device is powered by solar panels and moves along a cable between two trees as it monitors things like temperature, weather, carbon dioxide levels and other information.

Most engineers aren’t looking to build slow technology — in fact researchers recently developed quick moving robots to keep track of moths. But these scientists say that slow, energy efficient devices can linger in the environment longer to observe things they normally wouldn’t see. The robot is programmed to move only when necessary and seeks out sunlight to charge its batteries. Scientists are now testing out the SlothBot in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

“SlothBot could do some of our research remotely and help us understand what’s happening with pollinators, interactions between plants and animals, and other phenomena that are difficult to observe otherwise,” said Emily Coffey, vice president for conservation and research at the Garden in a press release. “With the rapid loss of biodiversity and with more than a quarter of the world’s plants potentially heading toward extinction, SlothBot offers us another way to work toward conserving those species.”

Read the article in Georgia Tech News and check out a video of the SlothBot below.