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Friday, July 04, 2008

Robot of the Day: Robotic Flowers

Another make up post. When will I ever catch up?!

If you like decorating your rooms with flowers and plants but always "forget" to water your plants, why not consider having a robot watering your plants for you? Now here's an even better idea: why not just have robotic flowers and plants??!!

Chonnam National University in Korea has developed just the right solution for you: a robotic plant that emits oxygen, moisture, and aroma, and even dances to music (shown in the picture above). This 130cm tall and 40cm in diameter robot also knows how to greet you by bending toward you and bloom for you. It also reacts to light changes or even loud voices.

I tried to find more pictures or videos of this robotic flower but could not find any. There isn't any pricing or release date for retail products, either. I just hope it dances better than this one:

The idea of robotic flowers/plants is not new and researchers in US also developed various prototypes. The video below shows the robotic flowers designed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal (MIT) that sway when a human hand is near and glow in beautiful bright colors.

Sena Clara Creston, an artist from New York City, built a robotic flower garden as one of her art projects. The video below shows some of the flowers she created. The next paragraph is direct quote from her statement about this project.

"Flower Garden is an interactive installation that detects and responds to the viewers' movements. The garden consists of about 20 paper-mâché and wire flowers each equipped with a distance sensor and arranged around a path for the viewer to walk through. Once the viewer gets within range the flower encloses its petals within its leaves. If the viewer remains in range the flower begins to shake making it appear to be nervous or frightened and if the viewer continues to approach, the flower responds by becoming aggressive, snapping it's petals and leaves open and shut. If the viewer steps out of range the flower seems to relax. It stops shaking and very slowly opens back up, exposing its petals. When the viewer enters the garden, the seemingly benign environment of fragile and vulnerable sculptures will have tuned into a mass of creatures fully expressing their aversion to the intrusion either by putting up their defenses, or in cases of extreme attack, becoming offensive. The viewer, realizing the impact they are having on the environment, will in turn react to the flowers, either choosing to hurry through the path causing as little disturbance as possible or embrace confrontation and continue to provoke the flowers."

I know these robotic flowers are supposed to represent timid fragile things that are nervous and frightened, but why do I always get this creepy feeling with monstrous man-eating creatures looming in my mind? Do you also get the feeling that they might just bite you, all of a sudden, like how this robot below is doing?

Frankly speaking, robotic flowers or plants that are for decorations only don't excite me that much. They are cool and cute (or creepy), but don't you wish it will do a bit something more for you, such as checking your emails for you?! Don't laugh! I didn't come up with this idea; someone else did, who even published a paper on this. Read my adviser's survey paper on Human Robot Interaction if you are interested.

Here's another idea. How about letting your robotic plant be your personal psychiatrist? Sega Toys actually came up with such a product named "Pekoppa" that will listen to your endless and meaningless ranting and react to it. (Disclaimer: I don't know Japaneses, so I have no idea what harm is done to the poor little robot!)

So, have you found the robotic flower/plant just right for you? I am still looking....

Rather than constantly worrying about the many things you have to get done, just start doing them one at a time.