Do you remember learning in science class that plants are “heliotropic?” That means that they grow towards the light. The plant reaches for this source of lignt, but it can only stretch as far as its roots will let it.
Now there is help for plants. A plant can not only stretch toward the light, it can move, like an animal. Chinese roboticist and entrepreneur Sun Tianqi has made this happen. He created a six-legged toy robot through his company Vincross that can carry a potted plant on its back.
The robot with plant looks like a leafy crab or spider. It knows to move toward the sunlight with it is needed and even retreat to shade when it has had enough.
But there’s more…
The plant/robot will play with humans too if you tap its top. And when it is out of water, it will do a little stomp dance for you.
Although details about how it works are not public, Tianqi must have integrated monitors on the robot’s environment so that it is aware of light, shade and moisture.
Tianqi described the project by saying it was a remake of an earlier installation he made in 2014. He called the project: “Sharing Human Technology with Plants.”
He said that he was inspired to do this when seeing a dead sunflower at an exhibition. It was sitting in a shadow for some reason. Plants are usually “eternally, inexplicably passive,” he writes. “You can cut them, burn them, and pull them out of the earth, and they do nothing. They have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures,” he says.
“But, in the same way that humans have augmented our ability to move with bikes, trains, and planes, technology can give plants new freedom. With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction,” writes Tianqi. “I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings.”