Cyborg plants render humans even more obsolete

Plant-robot hybrids can feed, water, and sun themselves. (I, for one, welcome our new photosynthesizing overlords.)

The cyborg plant is not a new concept. The robot plant replacement is even less new: You can buy one for a price of $4.19 from ThinkGeek, after all. But a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich isn't interested in solar-powered plastic toys or surgically-altered self-lighting plants that hang on a wall (creepy!) -- they're giving plants the ability to feed, water, and sun themselves, by augmenting them with iRobot technology and wheels.

Aline Veillat and Stéphane Magnenat fitted an iRobot Create platform with light and sound sensors, as well as wheels, according to New Scientist. The plant that perches on top of the platform is carried toward light and water so that it can photosynthesize, away from noises so it stays out of the path of humans and interested animals, and back to a set charging station so that the platform itself doesn't run out of juice.

The project basically lends autonomy and interactivity to plants -- objects that humans often regard more as decoration than as living things. Veillat and Magnenat intend to hold an exhibition of several plant-borgs in one space, able to hang out with each other and do whatever it is that mobile plants would most like to do -- although with the current algorithms they have, it seems like the plants will mostly be interested in staying out of each other's way.

The plant-borg differs from previous cyborg plant projects in that it lends mobility, as opposed to just stationary self-sufficiency. And unlike the nomadic plant by Gilberto Esparza, created in 2008, that set out on its own with a solar-powered rig to take care of itself, it's distinctly for domestic plants...uh, house plants, of course.

People already talk to, play music for, and name their plants; what'll happen once the plants can move around and feed themselves? Think we can teach them to play fetch?

[via New Scientist]

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Rachel Martin

PC World (US online)

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