Cyborg Venus Flytraps Are Here. Luckily They’re Not Hostile
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a university in Singapore comes and creates a half-robot, half-plant Venus flytrap cyborg. This is what researchers at Nanyang Technological University recently built – and while it’s annoying and impressive in equal measure, it might also turn out to be surprisingly useful.
A Venus flytrap is pretty cool in itself. The Venus flytrap is a rare example of a carnivorous plant that gets some of its nutrients from eating insects and spiders. It resembles a row of pine trees that close over prey when tiny, stiff, tripwire-style hairs are thrown on their leaves. The tasty piece is enclosed in the interlocking teeth of the plant before the Venus flytrap digests its soon-to-be meal with gastric juices.
The Cyborg Venus Flytrap is basically that – but supplemented with electrodes that stick to the leaves to make them controllable via the smartphone.
“For the first time, assets can now be on-demand to complete immediate tasks,” Xiaodong Chen, chairman of the president for materials science and engineering at Nanyang Technological University, told Digital Trends.
Chen noted that the researchers used a frequency dependent modulation method to stimulate the fly trap with a high degree of accuracy and speed. As can be seen from the video above, it works surprisingly well.
Nanyang Technical University
Feed me Seymour
But the goal isn’t to create an army of carnivorous robo-plants from the Internet of Things like a revival of Little Shop of Horrors directed by Jeff Bezos. Instead, it is fundamental research that could be used to develop more delicate robotic grippers that can pick up fragile objects that could be damaged by rigid, traditional grippers. In demonstrations, the fly trap was attached to a robotic arm and used to hold a piece of wire half a millimeter in diameter.
Chen said the research could also be used to create thin film spots that can be attached to leaf surfaces to monitor plant stress.
In the next phase of the project, a way will be found to significantly improve the speed at which the fly trap reopens once it is closed.
“The next step is to reopen the plant robot faster,” said Chen. “Although the flytrap’s closing process can be precisely controlled, it takes hours to reopen. Our next step is to find ways to speed up the reopening process. In addition, we would [like to] Expand the plant from the fly trap to other more common plant species. “
An article describing the research was recently published in Carnivorous Plant Robots And You magazine. (Just kidding: it was Nature Electronics.)