Today’s Solutions: March 29, 2023

While typically sloths are not on display at Atlanta’s Botanical Garden, over the next couple of months, the garden’s visitors will be treated to the peculiar sight of a cute, sloth-resembling robot hanging out amongst the trees, watchfully observing the natural environment around it.

The SlothBot, built by engineers at Georgia Tech, is designed to choose its movements wisely, operating in a highly energy-efficient manner to hang around the canopy monitoring animals, plants, and environmental conditions, with an eye on assisting conservation efforts around the world.

Powered by an attached solar panel, the three-foot-long robot consists of a 3D-printed shell that houses its motor, gearing, battery system, and a suite of sensors. The robot is programmed to shuffle up and down 100-ft-long cable strung between two large trees as it monitors the temperature, weather, or carbon dioxide levels, with the kind of patience needed to form a long-term picture.

“SlothBot embraces slowness as a design principle,” says Magnus Egerstedt, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech. “That’s not how robots are typically designed today, but being slow and hyper-energy efficient will allow SlothBot to linger in the environment to observe things we can only see by being present continuously for months or even years.”

The SlothBot will continue plying its trade in Atlanta for the next few months, with the team hoping to show how it can enlighten their understanding of the different factors that impact precious ecosystems and can help protect rare species.

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