Inspired from the way plants maintain themselves, the PLANTOID project seeks to build machines that grows ‘roots’ and using these ‘roots’ the machines will be able to pull energy from the soil, like plants, without having to rely on conventional energy sources such as batteries.

“PLANTOIDS take inspiration from, and aim at imitating, the amazing penetration, exploration, and adaptation capabilities of plant roots”, reads the project page.

The project was unveiled by Barbara Mazzolai of the Italian Institute of Technology at the Living Machines Conference in London. Mazzolai and team behind the project will be developing sensors into the system using which will detect moisture, chemicals, temperature among other things – just like plant roots. Further, the team will also be looking to establish communication networks between the ‘roots’ of the machine.

One of the goals of the project is to make machines learn how to explore and adapt to underground environments thereby enabling them to function as actual roots. Each of the PLANTOID root will be consisting of a sensor [its apex], elongation zone [to connect the apex and the trunk of robot], actuator, and control units.

The project has managed to gain support in the form of partners including Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Spain and Università Degli Studi Di Firenze (UNIFI), Italy. The partners will be forming a consortium comprising of engineers, computer scientists and plant biologists.