Robots in the Garden: Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Landscapes

Zihao Zhang, Susan L. Epstein, Casey Breen, Sophia Xia, Zhigang Zhu, Christian Volkmann

This paper introduces ELUA, the Ecological Laboratory for Urban Agriculture, a collaboration among landscape architects, architects and computer scientists who specialize in artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision. ELUA has two gantry robots, one indoors and the other outside on the rooftop of a 6-story campus building. Each robot can seed, water, weed, and prune in its garden. To support responsive landscape research, ELUA also includes sensor arrays, an AI-powered camera, and an extensive network infrastructure. This project demonstrates a way to integrate artificial intelligence into an evolving urban ecosystem, and encourages landscape architects to develop an adaptive design framework where design becomes a long-term engagement with the environment.

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