Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

This Robot Will Swing Over Crops like Tarzan

Researchers actually modeled this plant-watching robot on sloths.

What happens if a robot is raised by apes? Perhaps you get something along the lines of Tarzan the Robot.

Despite its rather comical means of locomotion, this robot is designed with a serious purpose in mind: its on-board cameras keep a watchful eye on crops so that large fields needn’t be constantly tended by farmers. But instead of scrabbling around on the ground (where there are many obstacles) or fly through the air (which is energy intensive), it swings its arms to traverse a guy wire strung up across a patch of land.

For what it’s worth, the robot isn’t strictly modeled on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s fictional jungle-dwelling character—but, rather, on sloths. “A sloth is really energy efficient,” explains Jonathan Rogers, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in a video describing the device. “We’re trying to design this robot to be very energy efficient so essentially one day it can be powered by the sun.”

Tarzan isn’t the only high-tech way to keep an eye on crops, of course. Drones can be used to monitor plants, offering high-resolution images and incredible speed, but they can generally only spend a short time aloft before they need to be recharged. Data-gathering poles can be erected to provide cost-efficient surveillance, but they’re stationary and can only cover a relatively small area. Tarzan, meanwhile, swings somewhere in the middle.

(Read more: TechCrunch, “How Drones Can Give a Boost to Biofuels”)

Couldn't make it to EmTech Next to learn how robotics is driving the future of work?

Go behind the scenes and check out our video
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.