Tag Archives: garden robots

Projects: Cybersaurus

Cybersaur 1

As mentioned a while back, I’m an unrepentant fan of the palaeoart of Raven Amos and Scott Elyard, two old friends in Alaska who fill my PO box with entirely too much wonderful stuff every time they have an art show. After a while, I started thinking “What would it take to make their work into garden sculpture?” (As the Czarina can attest, this sort of thought happens quite often. This is why we don’t have a hitch trailer for hauling heavy items, because otherwise the back yard of the house really would look like a set for The Red Green Show.) However, not having the studio nor the talent of a Bruce Gray, it was a matter of keeping things small.

Cybersaur 2

Also as mentioned previously, I share so many habits with Gila monsters that they’re practically my totem animal. The venomous bite that’s painful but rarely dangerous is a given, as is a taste for sucking eggs and eating baby bunnies in the spring, as well as looking very fetching in orange and black. No, the wisdom I learned from Heloderma suspectum that I most appreciate is “if you don’t have to be out in the heat, stay underground.” With summer finally kicking in, this means that days off, evenings, and weekends are spent as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as I can manage. Others might fill that time with reading, online porn, or Russian roulette under tournament rules. Me, it’s a matter of getting ready for next October’s FenCon X show. If that means huffing europium paints until I sneeze luminous boogers, then it’s worth the effort.

Cybersaur from above

The real surprise to Cybersaurus (2013), aside from the final plant arrangement in which it’ll appear in October, isn’t that obvious in full daylight. However, inspired by Raven and Scott’s work, most of its best detail is most visible in the dark or under ultraviolet. That all depends upon the amount of light it receives, as one of the best discoveries of the whole project was learning that europium absorbs enough energy in full sun that it glows in shade. (The plan for a subsequent sculpture involves built-in UV LEDs powered via solar cells on its back. I just need to find a suitable Spinosaurus or Acrocanthosaurus skeleton model to make it work.)

Small tyrannosaur sculpture

Small Triceratops

And it keeps coming. A very large order of custom glass means that several larger custom arrangements can be finished this summer, with comparably scaled cybersaurs of their own in them. A good wash of paint to bring out the metal, a bit more europium paint, and suitable weathering, and they should work quite well. And so it goes.

Hints at upcoming projects

To quote Michelangelo, “When I steal an idea, I leave my knife.” This seemed to work for him, considering his career of artistic bootlegging, and it works here. Being a hopeless fan of the work of Alaska artists Scott Elyard and Raven Amos, I’ve argued for years that the gardening trade needs an alternative to flamingos and gnomes for garden ornamentation, and there’s no better alternative than a blatant plagiarism of Scott and Raven’s Dinosaurs and Robots exhibition. What better way to leave my knife than show the first part of a miniature garden series in progress?

Robosaur

Please note that this is just the bare start: besides constructing the rest of the series, this skeleton itself is nowhere near finished. Let’s just say that I’m very glad that I bought enough europium paint and ultraviolet LEDs for the project.
Robosaur

Robosaur

As for seeing the final series, you’ll have to wait. If this doesn’t add a bit of incentive for people to come out for FenCon X, I don’t know what will.

“Awww, but I wanted to explode.”

As longtime readers have noted, my interest in horticultural robots goes way back, and I’m impressed by the news of Willoway Nursery in Ohio using robots to move plants back and forth in the greenhouse and nursery yard. I personally like the idea, and would do this with the Triffid Ranch as soon as they’re practical.

My only fear doesn’t involve horticultural robots going berserk, or even their going through their routines with a Joan Baez soundtrack in the background. My fear involves having lots of friends who are more devilishly inventive than I’ll ever be, and having much more programming experience than I’ll ever have. I have no problems with robots letting me know what they really think. It’s when they want to be like me that I have issues.

“I prefer the term ‘artificial person’ myself.”

Back when I started this little trek into horticulture nearly a decade ago, I thought things would settle down a bit. I mean, I know that orchid people are weird (in the Old English meaning of the word) and rose people are even worse, but not everybody could be as fundamentally broken as science fiction people, right?

Oh, I had no idea. None. Witness my friend Amanda Thomsen of the very disturbing blog Kiss My Aster and her fascination with building gardening robots. I can’t help but think that I’ve seen this movie before, with the same soundtrack:

Okay, that’s a bit cruel, but I have to admit that there’s this odd fascination with gardening robots in science fiction. In reality, too, for that matter. The underlying idea is that while humans should be the ones to do all of the fine-tuning, there’s no reason why you can’t leave robots to do the weeding, pruning, mowing, and other menial tasks. At least, until they rise up and tell humanity to bite their shiny metal asses.

Ah well. As a kid, I made most of my spending money by mowing lawns throughout my neighborhood in obscene summer heat, and I didn’t have a problem with doing the mowing myself. Having a robot on hand to clean up the piles of dog crap that most of my customers let build up, though, would have been perfect. These days, I still wouldn’t complain about a robot that took out the treerats going after the tomato plants, with a bit more precision than the motion-sensitive lawn sprinklers currently available. If it could clean out the gutters while waiting for its next hit, so much the better.