Whether you’re camping out under the stars, partaking in some nocturnal poop scooping, hosting an after-hours BBQ, or simply pruning your hydrangeas under a discreet cover of darkness (while listening to REM, naturally), making your way around the garden or backyard at night can often be a perilous activity with hidden dangers lurking around each turn.

Sure, strategically placed accent lights can help you see the way. And a flashlight or hand-held lantern are must-haves although chances are you’re also probably carrying something else — a garden trug, a tray of cocktails, a bucket of kitchen scraps, a telescope, a bag of fresh dog feces — and may want to keep your hands free. This is where a small army of iPad-controlled robot-lanterns that dutifully follow you around a darkened garden-scape could come in mighty handy. After all, we have robots to mow our laws — we shouldn’t we have robots that assist us in fumbling around the backyard in the dark?

The experimental creation of Tokyo-based professor Alvaro Cassinelli, these so-called Toro-bots — traditional Japanese lanterns affixed to PhantomX quadrupeds from Trossen Robotics— are admittedly a bit unsettling. If I were to step out into the backyard to do some midnight seed sowing and encountered a glowing, four-legged, spider-like creature of unknown provenance scampering toward me from behind a rose bush, I’d most likely run inside and lock myself away until sunup.

However, these dancing/crawling/flashing bots each with a distinct “personality” — they’re equipped with infrared rangefinders and sensors that give them a keen sense of spatial awareness while also allowing them to be wirelessly controlled individually or collectively via iPad  — are only here to help.

Explains Cassinelli:

A traditional Japanese garden strives to represent a miniature natural landscape. Following clear aesthetic principles (such as miniaturisation, concealment and asymmetry), a Japanese garden is designed to recreate the eyes and foster contemplation and meditation. Inspired by nature, it is however a work of art: a production of the human mind. Human beings create that order, and then retreat to contemplate it, intervening from time to time to tweak details and maintain the order. We propose here a garden that takes care of itself, that somehow understands and re-interprets the rules of harmony and equilibrium, and reconfigures itself depending on the season, the presence or absence of a human observers - that develops structure in a generative way, creating a dynamic conversation between the elements in the garden. 
So there’s that — how very "*batteries not included" meets Sunset magazine. In addition to assisting in Japanese-style garden reorganization, a small fleet of Toro-bots would be an awesome/disturbing addition to any evening garden party as noted by Gizmodo: “As guests arrive for a nighttime garden party you could — in theory, at least — assign one of these glowing creepers to follow each person around as they mingle. The lantern bots are also equipped with infrared rangefinders so they won't accidentally bump into someone, or wander into a koi pond."

Via [Gizmodo], [The Daily Mail]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Robotic garden lanterns prevent spills in the dark, haunt you in your sleep
When solar accent lights just aren't cutting it, these somewhat nightmarish robo-lanterns will help you safely traverse a garden at night.