Back in school, I remember learning that plants are "heliotropic," meaning they grow toward light. I always found this oddly touching, as if those green tendrils stretching out to the sun proved the plant was yearning to live. And why not? That is why they do it.
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. 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'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. We've emailed for more details.