Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

This Sun Chasing Robot Looks After the Plant on its Head

Robo planter

Back in school, I remember learning that plants are “heliotropic,” meaning they grow toward the light. I always found this touching, as if those green tendrils stretching out to the sun proved the plant was desire to live. And why not? That is why they do it.

Robo planter

But what if plants could do more than stretch? What if they could move like animals, independent of their roots? Evolution hasn’t got there yet, but it turns out, humans can help.

Chinese roboticist and entrepreneur Sun Tianqi has made it happen: modding a six-legged toy robot made by his company Vincross to carry a potted plant on its back.

The resulting plant-robot hybrid looks like a leafy crab or a robot Bulbasaur. It moves toward the sunshine when needed, and it retreats to shade when it’s had enough.

The robo-plant hybrid can move into the sun when it needs to. Image: Tianqi Sun

It can retreat into the shade. Image: Tianqi Sun

It’ll “play” with a human if you tap its carapace, and it can even make its needs known by performing a little stompy dance when it’s out of water.

It can even “play” with humans (sort of). Image: Tianqi Sun

And it does a little stomping dance when it needs watering. Image: Tianqi Sun

It’s not clear from Tianqi’s post how the plant actually monitors its environment, but it wouldn’t be too hard to integrate these functions with some basic light, shade, and moisture sensors.

Tianqi calls the project “Sharing Human Technology with Plants.” And he was inspired by seeing a dead sunflower at an exhibition that was sitting in the shadows for some reason. With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction.

Tianqi Goal for the project in his words:
“I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings.”


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