A Garden of Robotic Delights

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The flowers in Cynthia Breazeal's garden are like no blossoms you've ever seen. Fashioned of metal and silicone and embedded with electronic sensors, they are actually robots that react to light and body heat by bobbing, swaying, spinning and changing color. Put your hand in front of one, and its petals contract into a bud and turn bright green or red. Stand near another, and notice how the soft, ambient music in the background changes pitch. Now showing at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, through January 2004, Cyberflora Installation was created by Breazeal, a professor of media arts and sciences at M.I.T. Media Lab, and a team of her students. "So many robots are seen as mechanical drones that do physical labor," says Breazeal. "I wanted to communicate a more humane vision of technology and convey the notion of interactivity as a dance."