The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving


Session Title:

  • Robots and Robotics

Presentation Title:

  • The IndaPlant Project: An Act of Trans-Species Giving




  • The IndaPlant Project is an act of trans-species giving designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. Now in the first year of a two-year production cycle, this initiative is dedicated to creating a community of light-sensing robotic vehicles, each of which is able to respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water. The initial IndaPlant unit currently carries out basic sun- and water-seeking functions and is wired through an Arduino board. It is chargeable via solar power and can perform motion planning to independently avoid obstacles during movement. IndaPlant is a collaboration among the departments of Fine Art, Ecology & Evolution, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers University. It was initially conceived by the artist Elizabeth Demaray to be an installation in a domestic environment, in which a community of robotically controlled houseplants could share information with one another or, conversely, compete for resources. Demaray states, “My primary interest in creating this piece lies in the poetic implications of turning an immobile houseplant—which is completely dependent upon human largesse and care—into a free agent which, depending upon either programming or emergent properties, could become a potentially cooperative or competitive entity”. The emergent properties of a company of autonomous, light-seeking houseplants will be fascinating to both observe and program. Of particular interest to the IndaPlant work group is the possibility of creating a self-governing population of data sharers. In this scenario, the environmental data collected by one IndaPlant could be communicated between members of the community and be used for group decision making.