Attack of the killer robo-gardeners

Researchers at MIT have come up with a bot-tended garden in which a network lets plants tell machines exactly when they need to be watered and fed.

MIT's robotic gardener
Each robot in MIT's garden is outfitted with a robotic arm and a watering pump, while the tomato plants themselves are equipped with local soil sensing, networking, and computation. Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

I'm allergic to tomatoes. Also black olives and mushrooms. That means I'm about the worst guy in the world to order a pizza with. But tomatoes are in about everything. Tacos, spaghetti--you name it, it's got tomatoes.

MIT's Luke Johnson and Sam Dyar program an autonomous robotic arm. Why do these guys want to kill me? Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

That is why I can't fully get behind these robotic, automated tomato-farming machines being developed by MIT. Clearly, they're Terminators sent from the future to try to kill me. Or Sarah Connor, though I'm not sure what she's allergic to.

I mean where else would something so high-tech come from? The robots are just part of a system that monitors each individual tomato plant in an urban garden at the school, thereby watering it and dispensing food exactly when it needs it. This creates superior and more economically friendly crops, again clearly designed to kill me more efficiently.

The machines are networked and communicate in real time. The project was put together by Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral assistant working in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, with the aim of getting a similar system to someday work on a large, economically viable scale.

The researchers, in fact, envision a fully autonomous greenhouse, complete with robots, pots, and plants connected via computation, sensing, and communication.

Of course, in the near future, all farming in America might be done by semi-intelligent robots controlled by Skynet. Just think of what might happen if we let these things achieve self-awareness. I'm scared now. And hungry.

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About the author

    With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.

     

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