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What is a SlothBot?

Answer: A robot that looks and acts like a sloth.

One might wonder why anyone would want to create a robot that moves as slowly as a sloth. And you would be right to wonder, but as it turns out, there is actually a very good reason.

Engineers at Georgia Tech designed the SlothBot to monitor the inhabitants of a forest environment. Suspended from a cable in the trees, the robot can move slowly — very slowly — back and forth while gathering data on the surrounding plants, animals and environmental conditions such as weather. Since it moves so slowly it uses very little energy, and it’s powered by a solar panel, which means it can stay active pretty much indefinitely. The SlothBot is the ideal tool for long-term monitoring of a natural environment, which is difficult for humans to do.

“SlothBot embraces slowness as a design principle,” said Magnus Egerstedt, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “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 is currently being tested in the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where it will remain for the next few months. If all goes well, the researchers hope to use it for environmental monitoring projects in South America.