Tag Archives: plants

Plantas Nómadas

Now this is nifty.

We Make Money, Not Art interviews, Gilberto Esparza about his Plantas Nómadas (Nomadic Plants), an autonomous walking robot that is powered by a combination of solar cells and a microbial fuel cell. When the fuel cell output drops beneath some threshold, the bot seeks out a water source, extends a proboscis and refills the fuel cell. Additional water is used nourish a colony of on board plants.

Gilberto’s earlier work is equally interesting. Parasitos Urbanos (Urban Parasites) (flashless site) was a series of robots inductively powered from electrical transmission lines that would move through the urban environment mimicking sounds they encounter.


Garden for a Not Too Distant Future

Spanish art collective, Luzinterruptus latest creation, Jardín para un Futuro, No Muy Lejano (Garden for a Not Too Distant Future), is 110 clear plastic containers, each containing a few leaves and branches, along with a green LED.

The artist statement says that installation was a humorous statement about the lack of green space in modern cities; but given the frequency of their installations, I think that’s more just talk than anything.

Luzinterruptus weekly installations are a bit repetitive. For instance, “Jardín” is reminiscent of their December work, Naturaleza Contra Cristal (Nature Against Glass), where they placed green LEDs and tree clippings on the Madrid Metro elevators stations. Parallels to Graffiti Research Lab‘s LED Throwies and Goggin and Keehn’s The Language of Birds could also be made.

Yes, it’s repetitive. Yes, other people are doing the same thing, perhaps even better. But I’m a sucker for LEDs in the dark.

Natural Deselection

This past weekend, Ming and I planted a couple of tomato plants in pots to grow. As part of the fun, we’re keeping a log of how fast the plants grow. Doing this has given me flashbacks to LDEF SEEDS experiment which involved both school children and “real” scientists growing tomatoes that were exposed to the radiation of space for almost six years. (FYI: Space seeds had higher germination rates, but tasted the same as Earth tomatoes.)

While thinking about plant growth rates, I came across Natural Selection by Tom Simpson of Studio Lithero. It is perhaps the most boring death race ever. (Actually, it’s pretty cool sped up.) Three plants enter. One plant leaves (HA!), and becomes president. Sensors at the top of the stand trigger cutters at the bottom.

Makes me want to breed some sort of super plant, á la the Russiansilver fox experiment.

Synthetic Plants

I’ve been thinking more about solar plants recently. I like how these projects combine both form and function. I’ve been thinking about what I’d like in one of these, and how one would be made. First, the power being collected by the solar cells needs to go somewhere. It could just feed back into the device, which is exactly what happens with plants, but part of me likes the idea of having the sculpture(?) have a practical use as well. If I want practicality, then USB ports for charging an iPod or a phone that I don’t have would be nice. At least one port, but four would be more than plenty. I’m leaning towards the solar cells charging some li-ion or nicad battery coupled with something like a Minty Boost.

The second feature I’ve been hammering the previous electronic plants I’ve looked at is the movement, specifically heliotropism (i.e. sun tracking). It’s an interesting feature, and it would increase the power to the photovoltaics. I don’t like the idea of the hearing servos move, so that means nitinol wires, which also have the quality of more closely resembling natural motion by simply expanding and contracting. The next question then becomes, what form would the motion would take?

If rigid photovoltaics are used, then panel could be mounted to a universal joint with the two outside corners independently controlled by nitinol. The other idea is to use flexible photovoltaics and hopefully no hinges and joints.

Another interesting idea is to think about deployable structures, which would seem to imply the use of flexible photovoltaics. It’s not exactly the heliotropism I was thinking of, but it would be cool if the “leaves” opened up in the day, tracked the light, and then closed at night.

Doing all of this nitinol might be kind of difficult. Heating nitinol causes it to contract in the 3 – 5 % range, doesn’t seem like much. This also means that for a deployable structure, it needs to collapse when the wires are extended,

Will I actually build this? Probably not, but it is something I’ve been thinking about. Perhaps it would give me an excuse to visit Noisebridge.

Living Light

Taking a commission from Seoul’s City Gallery Project, The Living created Living Light, a vaguely forest-like structure that features a map of Seoul across the canopy. Each of the 27 panels in the canopy represents a particular neighborhood in the city. At night, each panel is illuminated based on air quality data as measured by various sensors throughout the city. Every 15 minutes, the panels turn on in the order of best quality to the worst.

DorkbotSF 47

Last night was DorkbotSF 47 at TCHO. There were three speakers, Timothy Childs, founder of TCHO, talking about how they quantify chocolate and make small testing labs for the Peruvian jungle; Michael Ang (aka Mang) showing off some of his work like Strange Attractor, artificial flowers to attract butterflies, and Blue Flower, yet another LED flower. The highlight of the evening though was Mark Pauline of SRL revealing his plans to build an 8 foot spine robot with a spike on the end. The evening was streamed, so definitely watch Mark’s critique of other spine robots that have been built. It’s around 51:00.


Vivien Muller (previously) has created a new “plant,” Orkys. This one uses flexible photovoltaics as leaves to light what appears to be LEDs in in the flowers.

I prefer his previous work, PhotonSynthese more though. Aesthetically, it’s more pleasing with the brushed metal stems and the blue leaves, instead of the all black stem and leaves. However, the more flexible materials in Orkys makes it easier to introduce nitnol wires in the leaves for sun tracking. Also, PhotonSynthese does something, while Orkys just sits there and looks pretty. There’s no reason why you can’t have something like this do both.