MIT researchers always manage to push boundaries. This time they created a cyborg plant hybrid, which augments the natural processes of the plant to power a robotic system.

There is considerable amount of controversy when it comes to robots. The debate is certainly ongoing, and covers all sorts of possible scenarios: from robots stealing our jobs, to robots taking over the world and driving humans extinct. It sometimes even goes as far as  believing that robots and people can merge into hybrid creatures, or new species if you will, to define the next step of human evolution.

It is surprising, however, that we do not hear very often of projects that bring together different type of hybrid systems. The kind that can actually have positive impact on the environment, and would not endanger the sanctity of the human race.

Rarely, but such initiatives pop up once in a while. Of course, when it comes to cyborg inventions, someone at the MIT must be involved. These guys always know how to twist technology in a way that the average Jo’s like me cannot even imagine.

So, here is the latest news on the topic coming from professor Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes, both from MIT Media Lab. They designed Elowan, a robot-plant hybrid, which moves towards the light it needs. The remarkable feature of this hybrid is that it moves purely by augmenting the plan’t natural capabilities.

The team refers to this as an experiment of “cyborg botany”. Although it is only a prototype, Elowan is a brilliant example of the range of potential that can be explored further. Sereen envisions new type of cybernetic plants, which could turn into unlimited sources of energy. These robots could also be made to protect themselves, and why not even change and adjust the way they grow. In fact, such plants can hold the key to revolutionary organic food production in the very near future.

I wonder how soon we might be seeing such systems around. My bet goes for “very”!

Watch the demo video below.

Image (c) MIT Media Lab/Gizmodo

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