JUL 13, 2018 4:43 AM PDT

Watch: HEXA Robot Takes Care of Plants

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

Lovers of robotics and succulents will likely be drawn to this mobile, efficient, plant-caring robot called HEXA. It can be programmed with a wide range of abilities, including, as in the case of the HEXA mod featured herein, carrying small plants to sun and shade in order to keep them happy. HEXA is about 16 inches wide and 6 inches high. It has six legs but is often compared to arachnids because of its spider- or crab-like appearance. It weighs almost 4 pounds and can carry over three. It has Wi-Fi capability and its head can spin 360 degrees.

Gif of HEXA, credit: HEXA website

According to the HEXA site, the robot comes with several sensors that could enable it to care for plants in this manner. These include a camera; infrared sensor; accelerometer, which measures acceleration; and a “distance-measuring sensor” that presumably helps it orient itself and avoid collisions. This helpful robot has a battery life of about four hours.

HEXA has currently been designed to care for smaller succulent plants. Succulents are able to store water in their leaves, so are fairly low maintenance and probably a good choice for an experimental robotic gardening project of this kind. HEXA can move plants into the sun or shade in order to care for them and also senses when the water level in the plant is getting too low. How does it let a person know its plant needs water? Through the language of dance.

Gif of HEXA, credit: HEXA website

HEXA is a product of a tech company in Beijing called Vincross. Roboticist and Vincross CEO Tianqi Sun created this robotic vase or plant-vehicle version of HEXA after seeing a dying flower and wishing it could move into a better area in which to grow. In a related blog post, he wrote:

In 2014, I went to see a sunflower exhibition and found myself focused on a dead sunflower near a ground of blooms. I thought if it could move a little bit, take a 30-foot walk out of the shadow to where the other sunflowers were, it would have lived healthily. But it didn’t … [Plants] have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures in nature … I would love to try to share some of this human tendency and technology with plants.

Along with HEXA, the Vincross team also created a corresponding consumer robotics operating system, or OS, called MIND. All its robots are equipped with MIND, described as a “complete robotics ecosystem,” which allows users choose how to develop and build unique applications and skills for their robot. There is also a MIND “skills store,” in which developers can share ideas and projects. The company invites those interested in robotics to become mentors of HEXA by joining the Vincross robotics ecosystem, and it already has 2048 “human mentors” at work.

View more footage of the HEXA robot in action below. If you’d like to check out a few more high-tech gardening ideas, explore Labroots’ previous post, “Anyone Can Have a Green Thumb With the Help of This Garden Tech.”




The Verge

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
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