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A lazy robot acts as an environmental advocate to monitor rare species

While sloths are not usually present at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, over the next two months, visitors to the Georgian Garden will have the chance to see a cute, lazy-looking robot that hangs out among the trees and carefully observes the natural environment around it.

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Slow but efficient.

The SlothBot, built by Georgia Tech engineers, is designed to choose its movements wisely, operating in a highly energy-efficient way to stay in the canopy to monitor animals, plants and environmental conditions, with the goal of contributing to conservation efforts around the world.

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Powered by a solar panel, the robot is less than one metre long (90 centimetres) and consists of a 3D printed shell that houses its motor, gears, battery system and a series of sensors. The robot is programmed to move along a 30-metre cable stretched between two tall trees, while monitoring temperature, time or carbon dioxide levels, with the patience needed to obtain a long-term vision.

A robot that blends in with nature.

SlothBot adopts slowness as a design principle,” says Magnus Egerstedt, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech. “It’s not the way robots are generally designed today, but slowness and energy efficiency allow SlothBot to linger in the environment to observe things that we can only see by being present continuously for months or even years”.

SlothBot will continue to operate in Atlanta for the next few months, with the team hoping to show how it can improve their understanding of the various factors that impact valuable ecosystems and can help protect rare and endangered species.

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