Robot Guides Soybean Plant To Light

Indoor plants sustain health with help of a robot.
Karin Heineman, ISTV Executive Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- What happens when you combine a soybean plant with a robot?

You get a soybot!

Developed by researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, they're on-the-go micro gardens that help indoor plants seek out light.

"They're equipped with two sensors that measure light conditions, they move continually in the direction of the brighter light," said Shannon McMullen, a sociologist at Purdue.

The light sensors search and seek out sunlight or LED lights in a room. The soybots digitally map out their environment and move towards light all on their own, even when you're not home.

"It's really interesting for me to see, how or what happens if plants suddenly become mobile. And what do the plants tell us about these environments that we inhabit as humans," said Fabian Winkler, a new media artist at Purdue.

They're practically self-sufficient with a moisture sensor that indicates when to water the plant.

With a GoPro camera attached, the researchers saw that, "they would continue to keep following that direct sunlight and so they would be happy soybots and they would sit and they would soak up the sun and hopefully they would grow," said McMullen.

Originally designed for an art exhibition, the soybots could be easily adopted inside any home -- giving frequent travelers some piece of mind knowing their plants are taking care of themselves.

"When the soybots are not living in a gallery space they are sometimes in our home, we don't usually have them running full time in there, but they do become a part of your space," McMullen stated. 

The creators use soybean plants, but almost any plant will work. It's a modified Roomba robot made into a mobile potted plant.


Filed under
Author Bio & Story Archive

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.