Plant science

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:

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

3 comments on “Plant-Robot Hybrid Follows the Sun

  1. Thanks for the info because I’ve definitely never seen one. I find it creepy, the epitome of laziness, and for the remote control person who is not a gardener. To each his own, and I’m sure they will make big money. 🙂

  2. That is just weird. I would rather not grow houseplants than rely on that things scurrying about.

  3. Pingback: A Moveable Feast: Growing Your Veggies in a Wheelbarrow – Laidback Gardener

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