Emanuela Del Dottore
Bioinspired Soft Robotics laboratory
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy
Bioinspiration is a long-lasting approach increasingly adopted in robotics to inspire novel, emerging technologies and robotic systems expected to interact more safely with natural unstructured environments and living beings, better dealing with uncertain and dynamic conditions.
In particular, plants structural and functional properties, and their energy-saving strategies to move across unknown and challenging environments through adaptive growth, make plants a unique, novel model for roboticists. Plants explore and colonize their surroundings, overtaking obstacles and moving in a complex medium like roots in the soil or cluttered environments on the aerial side. They elaborate on many different chemical and physical signals from the outside. As a response, they display a series of growth movements and decision-making strategies whose engineering translation has proven to enable new abilities for improved motion and exploration of bio-inspired growing robots. For example, results of a deep study on a peculiar movement observed in plant roots, i.e., circumnutation, demonstrate its role in optimizing soil penetration. The “growth from the tip” adopted by this biological model has been verified to facilitate soil penetration in artificial penetrometers imitating the addition of new material at the tip via embedded additive manufacturing techniques while enabling passive body shaping. Strategies of self-orientation and environmentally driven growth have been translated into effective explorative control strategies for these plant-inspired autonomous systems.
Plants are viable models for engineering novel artificial systems, enabling new abilities for dynamic adaptation helping to reduce forces and energy employed in exploration tasks for application in agriculture, space, or Earth exploration and monitoring.
Dr. Emanuela Del Dottore is a Researcher in Bioinspired Soft Robotics at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Italy. With a background in Computer Science (University of Pisa) and a Ph.D. in Biorobotics (cum laude, from Scuola Superiore S. Anna, Pisa), she works on the development of control and decision-making strategies for bioinspired robots based on plants growth behaviors. Dr. Del Dottore has contributed to writing successful regional and international project proposals and participated in their development. These include, for instance, FET-OPEN FP7-ICT PLANTOID (G.A. 293431), FET-PROACT GROWBOT (G.A. 824074), ERC I-WOOD, POR FESR Toscana SMASH. She is co-advisor of several Ph.D. students, fellows, research interns, and postdocs working in plant-inspired robotics, growing robots, and soft robotics. Dr. Del Dottore is currently working on analyzing plant behaviors to implement plant-inspired computational models useful for the distributed control and communication of multi-agent systems. Her goal is to extract functional rules from natural living systems and implement similar functionalities to enable efficient compliance and adaptation in robotic artifacts to explore and monitor unstructured and mutable environments.