MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab researchers have installed an indoor tomato garden tended by hacked Roombas. The idea made me nostalgic for Ken Goldberg's pioneering Tele-garden that was online from 1995 to 2004. MIT News posted a slideshow of their robot garden:
The idea for tending to a garden without human hands came from work done by Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral assistant working in MIT Professor Daniela Rus' Distributed Robotics Lab. Correll saw the possible applications of swarm robotics to an agricultural environment and thus the idea grew into a course in which students created robots capable of tending a small garden of tomatoes. Each robot is outfitted with a robotic arm and a watering pump, while the plants themselves are equipped with local soil sensing, networking and computation. This affords them the ability to communicate: plants can request water or nutrients and keep track of their conditions, including fruit produced; robots are able to minister to their charges, locate and pick a specific tomato, and even pollinate the plants.