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A plantoid is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look, act and grow like a plant. The concept was first scientifically published in 2010[1] (although models of comparable systems controlled by neural networks date back to 2003[2]) and has so far remained largely theoretical. A prototype for the European Space Agency is now in development.[3]

A plantoid incorporates an inherently distributed architecture consisting of autonomous and specialized modules. Modules can be modeled on plant parts such as the root cap and communicate to form a simple swarm intelligence. This kind of system may display great robustness and resilience. It is conjectured to be capable of energy harvesting and management, collective environmental awareness and many other functions.[4]

In science fiction, while human-like robots (androids) are fairly frequent and animal-like biomorphic robots turn up occasionally, plantoids are quite rare. Exceptions occur in the novel Hearts, Hands and Voices (1992, US: The Broken Land) by Ian McDonald and the TV series Jikuu Senshi Spielban.


In 2016 an autonomous plantoid was deployed to accept bitcoin donations and use them to pay artists to replicate it. It is a distributed autonomous organization (DAO). The plantoid was created by Primavera De Filippi, the founder of Okhaos, an art collective behind the effort, who is also a faculty associate at the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard University and a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Self-executing software (a "smart contract") on the blockchain automates the transactions. Donors vote to determine which artist (or group of artists) build the next version. The plantoid contracts with the artists and pays them as part of the contract. Earlier plantoid versions and their creators receive a portion of the donations from their descendants, creating a "multi-level marketing" incentive for each generation to have as many descendants as possible. The creators presume that more aesthetically attractive versions will attract more donations, creating an incentive for the artists to produce ever-more pleasing designs.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mazzolai, Barbara (January 2010). "The plant as a biomechatronic system". Plant Signaling & Behavior. Landes Bioscience. 5 (2): 90–93. doi:10.4161/psb.5.2.10457. PMC 2884106.
  2. ^ Cheng Shao; Juan Nie; Furong Gao. "A robust iterative learning control with neural networks for robot" (PDF). Research Center of Information and Control, Dalian University of Technology. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
  3. ^ Nicole Martinelli (2007-10-30). "Smarty Plants: Inside the World's Only Plant-Intelligence Lab". Wired. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  4. ^ Mazzolai 2010, p. 93.
  5. ^ Frank, Aaron (2016-12-21). "This Bitcoin-Eating Plant Robot Hires Artists to Make Its Babies". Singularity Hub. Retrieved 2016-12-22.

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