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Meet Elowan, a cyborg plant that automatically moves towards the light

This plantroid has a robot attached to it which operates through electric signals transferred from the plant.

tech Updated: Dec 06, 2018 14:52 IST
Marcia Sekhose
Marcia Sekhose
Hindustan Times
elowan,robot-hybrid plant,cyborg plant
Elowan has silver electrodes attached to it which amplify the plant’s natural signals.(Harpreet Sareen/YouTube)

Researchers at MIT have created a plant-robot hybrid called, Elowan.

Developed by MIT researchers Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes, this plant-robot hybrid belongs to the new and emerging scientific category of “Cyborg Botany.”

The MIT researchers have also posted a video documenting the cyborg plant and how it operates on its own and reacts to light. Elowan is a regular looking house plant with a robotic base riding on wheels. The plant is equipped with silver electrodes in its stems, leaves, and the soil. The electrodes in the plant amplify its natural signals which are then transferred to the attached robot.

These signals when reacted will initiate the robot to start moving according to the plant’s behaviour. To show an example of this, Elowan is placed between two table lamps. As both lamps switch on simultaneously, Elowan moves towards the light. Elowan is seen moving left and right following the direction of light. This shows how the robot is triggered by the plant’s natural signals for its growth.

“The agency of movement rests with the plant based on its own bio-electrochemical signals, the language interfaced here with the artificial world,” Harpreet Sareen explained.

The MIT researchers explain how the cells and tissues of plants react according to the changes in the environment. The researchers also note how combining nature with the artificial world can lead to “self-repairing, self-powered and self-growing symbiotic organisms”.

“Such symbiotic interplay with the artificial could be extended further with exogenous extensions that provide nutrition, growth frameworks, and new defense mechanisms,” he adds.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 14:52 IST