What's your garden missing right now? You've probably got a few nice
statues, some pretty flowers, some edible plants...all the boring,
vanilla stuff you can find in any garden. No offense or anything, but that's sort of painfully boring. To me anyway - perhaps I'm just strange.
Let's get straight to the point, folks. I can tell you what most of you probably don't have - and what you most definitely, undeniably need: robots.
Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the Toro Bots. They're basically little Japanese Garden Lamps that wander around of their own accord. Somehow, even though they're clearly not capable of any sort of expression whatsoever, they look kind of...adorable?
Tell me you don't agree. Look at how they waddle around and flash to communicate with one another. I think they're communicating, anyway. It's kind of hard to tell.
The Toro-Bots are constructed atop PhantomX-AX 12 Quadrupeds. Each individual bot has been programmed with its own unique behavior and equipped with infrared rangefinders that allow it to react to what's going on in its environment as well as an infrared beacon that allows it to be tracked individually by camera. Eventually, the designer hopes to integrate some sort of autonomous, centralized intelligence to control the bots.
Okay...so they're spider-lamp-crab bots that work off a hive-mind? Significantly less adorable, and significantly more sounding like the sort of mad experiment that could lead to the collapse of society. They're still pretty cool though.
According to designer Alvaro Cassinelli, the robots are actually just one small aspect of a much grander vision: he hopes to eventually design a garden that's capable of aesthetically (and autonomously) reworking itself.
"A Japanese garden is designed to recreate the eyes and foster contemplation and meditation. Inspired by nature," he explains on a Youtube demo; "it is, however, a work of art: a production of the human mind. Human beings create that order, and then retreat to contemplate it, intervening from time to time to tweak details and maintain the order. We propose here a garden that takes care of itself, that somehow understands and re-interprets the rules of harmony and equilibrium, and reconfigures itself depending on the season, the presence or absence of a human observers-that develops structure in a generative way, creating a dynamic conversation between the elements in the garden."
This is more than a matter of simple aesthetics, too. Robots like the Toro-Bots could eventually be configured to act as a sort of unconventional security system, alerting particularly paranoid gardeners of intruders. They could also be outfitted with cameras or sensors that allow them to monitor plant health, allowing them to send you notifications or control sprinkler systems/pesticide dispersal.
Of course, a product like this most definitely doesn't come cheap. A Toro-bot of your very own will set you back just under $1,000. Oh, you'll have to buy your own Japanese lamp, too, not to mention that you'll have to have the robotics know-how to configure them. On second thought, it might just be easier to wait for the creator to release a commercial variant of them.
Hopefully, he does. After all, who doesn't want their very own robotic garden?
Alvaro Cassinelli is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo. He's a member of the MetaPerception group and the Ishikawa-Oku Lab. You can check out his personal website (with more cool projects) here.