Green thumb made easy: A plant robot chases sunlight, stomps when it needs water

A newly created robot plant makes it easy for you to exercise your green thumb: It will chase the sunlight, run to shade, dance when it's doing well and stomp when it needs to be watered. 

It’s called the HEXA Plant, a six-legged machine created by Vincross, a robotics company based in Beijing, China.

The robot planter will crawl toward the sunlight when it needs it, then will spin when it enjoys the sun in order to absorb its rays on all sides. When it needs to cool off, it will look for shade. It also plays with humans and dances when it is happy, moving its legs up and down. But it gets grumpy when it’s thirsty, throwing a tantrum by stomping its legs.  

Vincross’ CEO and Founder Sun Tianqi created the robotic planter after he was inspired by a dead sunflower, he said in a post for the company’s forum.

“In 2014, I went to see a sunflower exhibition, and found myself focused on a dead sunflower near a ground of blooms,” Sun said. “The dead flower sat in a place that was always in shadow. I had no idea how it ended up there or why it died – whether it was because of the lack of sunshine or water – but it was just there, and it was dead.” 

That’s when he had the idea for the walking planter. 

“I thought, if it could move a little bit, take a 30-feet walk out of the shadow to where the other sunflowers were, it would have lived healthily,” he said. “But it didn’t.” 

Sun described the plant’s passivity as part of the dead sunflower’s ultimate demise. 

“Plants are passive. Eternally, inexplicably passive. No matter if they are being cut, bitten, burned or pulled from the earth, or when they lack sunshine, water, or are too hot or cold, they will hold still and take whatever is happening to them,” he said. “They have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures in nature. This is simply the default setting that nature gives to plants.”

But he wants to utilize technology to break the plants’ “default setting” and allow them to “experience movement.” 

“I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings.” 

The HEXA Plant, however, is currently not for sale and only a user case. Sun created it to show what the original HEXA robot is capable of, Vincross said. When asked if the company will sell the robot plant in the future, it said for now, it does not have any plans to do so.

The HEXA Plant uses the base of the original HEXA robot, which crawls and has a camera with night vision. The standard original HEXA robot is on sale for $949, while one with a wireless charger costs $999. Consumers and developers can also use the programmable robot to create applications and code new movements.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.