Elowan is a cybernetic lifeform, a plant in direct dialogue with a machine. Using its own internal electrical signals, the plant is interfaced with a robotic extension that drives it toward light.
Plants are electrically active systems. They get bio-electrochemically excited and conduct these signals between tissues and organs. Such electrical signals are produced in response to changes in light, gravity, mechanical stimulation, temperature, wounding, and other environmental conditions.
The enduring evolutionary processes change the traits of an organism based on its fitness in the environment. In recent history, humans domesticated certain plants, selecting the desired species based on specific traits. A few became house plants, while others were made fit for agricultural practice. From natural habitats to micro-climates, the environments for these plants have significantly altered. As humans, we rely on technological augmentations to tune our fitness to the environment. However, the acceleration of evolution through technology needs to move from a human-centric to a holistic, nature-centric view.
Elowan is an attempt to demonstrate what augmentation of nature could mean. Elowan’s robotic base is a new symbiotic association with a plant. The agency of movement rests with the plant based on its own bio-electrochemical signals, the language interfaced here with the artificial world.
These in turn trigger physiological variations such as elongation growth, respiration, and moisture absorption. In this experimental setup, electrodes are inserted into the regions of interest (stems and ground, leaf and ground). The weak signals are then amplified and sent to the robot to trigger movements to respective directions.
Such symbiotic interplay with the artificial could be extended further with exogenous extensions that provide nutrition, growth frameworks, and new defense mechanisms.
About Cyborg Botany
Cyborg Botany is a new, convergent view of interaction design in nature. Our primary means of sensing and display interactions in the environment are through our artificial electronics. However, there are a plethora of such capabilities that already exist in nature. Plants, for example, are active signal networks that are self-powered, self-fabricating, and self-regenerating systems at scale. They have the best kind of capabilities that an electronic device could carry. Instead of building completely discrete systems, the new paradigm points toward using the capabilities that exist in plants (and nature at large) and creating hybrids with our digital world.
Elowan, the robot plant hybrid, is one in a series of such of plant-electronic hybrid experiments.
Learn more: Elowan: A plant-robot hybrid
The Latest on: Cyborg botany
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The Latest on: Cyborg botany
- Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants on December 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm
What sort of devices and infrastructure designs do you envision for this hybridized future? My current project is called Cyborg Botany. Right now, we use plants mainly as food crops, but plants in som... […]
- This Cyborg Plant Moves Toward Light on Its Own on December 11, 2018 at 4:34 am
Sareen keeps a lot of irons in a lot of fires, and his wandering houseplant is actually just one small part of a larger notional construct he calls Cyborg Botany. The idea, simply put, is to stop maki... […]
- Plant-robot hybrid out of MIT can make its own way to sunny spots on December 8, 2018 at 10:39 am
The base then moves the plant to a spot with better light to help ensure its survival. This new kind of cyborg botany has interesting potential. "Instead of building completely discrete systems, the n... […]
- Elowan is The First Ever Cyborg Houseplant on December 7, 2018 at 12:13 pm
The team refers to this as an experiment of “cyborg botany”. Although it is only a prototype, Elowan is a brilliant example of the range of potential that can be explored further. Sereen envisions new ... […]
- MIT Researchers Develop a Cyborg Houseplant That Goes After the Light on December 7, 2018 at 4:53 am
The concept they refer to is Cyber Botany, which was discussed in a research paper from co-project member Harpreet Sareen in a paper from last year. She designed it with Patti Maes. It can be ... […]
- MIT "cyborg botany" researcher builds plant-robot hybrid called Elowan on December 7, 2018 at 3:09 am
Natural and digital systems could be blended together to create new kinds of electronic devices, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher Harpreet Sareen, who has built a ro... […]
- Scientists Turned a Houseplant into a Cyborg on Wheels on December 6, 2018 at 4:17 am
When the light source changed, Elowan was soon to follow. The work delves into the world of cyborg botany and the future augmentation of nature. “Instead of building completely discrete systems, the n... […]
- Meet Elowan, a cyborg plant that automatically moves towards the light on December 6, 2018 at 1:29 am
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 vid... […]
- MIT's cyborg plant can drive itself into the light on December 5, 2018 at 10:59 pm
The team says that Elowan, which can be seen in action in the video below, is just one in a series of Cyborg Botany experiments. […]
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