The News Today
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12.19.18
Bots and Botany

MIT Researchers Built a Cyborg Houseplant

December 3rd 18__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Robots & Machines
Harpreet Sareen / Elbert Tiao

Robo-Plant

Wish your houseplants were a bit more mobile? Check out this cyborg plant that rolls itself around on two wheels.

On Thursday, researchers from the MIT Media Lab unveiled Elowan, a hybrid between a plant and a robot. Thanks to a system of electrodes and a robotic base with wheels, Elowan can detect light sources — and then drive itself toward them, using the plant’s own electrochemical signals.

I Feel You

Plants are sensitive to their environments. They can sense changes in light, gravity, temperature, and more. These changes prompt the organisms to send electrochemical signals between their tissues and organs.

When Elowan senses light, it produces some of these signals. Electrodes connected to the plant’s stems and leaves detect the signals, and that triggers Elowan’s robotic base to drive in the direction of the light.

Plants and Animals

We spend a lot of time thinking about how we might use tech to augment our human bodies, but according to Elowan’s creator, Sareen Harpreet, humans needn’t be the only cyborgs populating future society.

“As humans, we rely on technological augmentations to tune our fitness to the environment,” Harpreet writes on his website. “However, the acceleration of evolution through technology needs to move from a human centric to a holistic nature-centric view. I created Elowan as an attempt to provoke thought as to what augmented plants would mean.”

READ MORE: Elowan: A Plant-Robot Hybrid [MIT Media Lab]