The pages of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic novella, The Little Prince, contain a magnificent drawing of a floating moon, overgrown by baobab trees. That image–or maybe the floating plant islands in James Cameron’s Avatar–is what comes to mind when I look at the Air Bonsai, a hovering mini moon with a bonsai tree growing out of it. But the Air Bonsai isn’t fantasy or science-fiction: it’s on Kickstarter.
Invented by Hoshinchu, a small company out of Kyushu, Japan, the Air Bonsai comes in two parts. There’s the “little star,” an orb made out of a piece of sponge just 2.3-inches in diameter, and the “energy base,” a white porcelain pedestal over which the little star floats and slowly rotates at a height of about an inch. By transplanting your favorite bonsai, flower, or houseplant onto the sponge, you can make it the sole inhabitant of its own tiny, semi-contained world.
Although it looks like a Hollywood special effect, there’s nothing too technologically breathtaking about how the Air Bonsai achieves its anti-gravity effect. Ever struggled trying to push two magnets together? The same basic idea is at work here. It’s called magnetic levitation, and it’s the way everything from Bluetooth speakers to Japan’s maglev trains work. The magnet analogy is a little simplistic–magnetic levitation requires electricity and constant fine tuning to prevent the magnets from drifting out of alignment–but it’s easy to understand science, not magic. Just keep in mind if you pull the cord out of the base, your little bonsai planet’s going to go rolling across the floor.
Just because the technology driving the Air Bonsai is commonplace doesn’t mean it isn’t breathtaking, though, as proven by the fact that this hovering little plant kit has already blown through its original crowdfunding goal of $80,000 with 35 days still left to go. Those who wish to purchase an Air Bonsai for themselves can pay $200 for a basic set. Just remember: although the Air Bonsai looks awesome in close-ups, it’s actually a lot smaller than it looks. Set your expectations accordingly.
[via Spoon & Tamago]