Plant-Robot Hybrid Follows the Sun


We all knew it would happen one day, didn’t we? Robots so advanced they can scarcely be distinguished from life forms! Well, this one is a cross between a plant and a robot: it’s designed to make sure the plant gets all the light it needs.

The robot will move the plant toward the light.

As the day moves on, the six-legged robot with a plant (Echeveria ‘Hakuhou’) on its top will follow the light, moving the plant to the best spots for its growth. It will also turn so all sides of the plant receive their share of light. And if it gets too hot or the plant has had its quota for the day, it will move, plant and all, to a cooler spot. 

The robot turns so the plant gets equal light on all sides.

The robot was created by Chinese roboticist and entrepreneur Sun Tianqi and is a modified form of a robot you can actually buy (if for some reason you need a robot that looks and moves like a crab): the HEXA, offered by Vincross, on sale for a mere $949 US. 

Water me, please!

Besides giving the plant its daily quotient of sunlight, the modified robot will also do a little dance to let its owner know it needs water and will interact with its owner if it’s touched. 

That’s enough sun for today!

Sun Tianqi explains his reasons for developing the hybrid: 

“For billions of years, plants have never experienced movement of any kind, not even the simplest movement. Their whole lives, they stick to where they were born. Do they desire to break their own settings or have a tendency towards this? If human beings always try to break the settings with technology, how about plants? I do not know the answer, but I would love to try to share some of this human tendency and technology with plants. With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction. I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings.”

Is this the future for plants? Will our parks be filled with robot trees seeking the sun and duking it out with other robot trees for the best spots? Will fields of wheat and rice wander about looking for just the right light or saunter down to the lake for a good soaking when they’re dry? Will my houseplants take to scurrying from room to room as the light changes, trampling my dog’s tail? 

This is getting kind of scary: I’m thinking that maybe I’ll want my plants to stay where I put them! 

All photos:

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