And users are attached to the device
For many people, smartphones, smart watches and fitness bracelets have long become an integral part of life. However, when they fail or simply become obsolete, owners throw them away and buy new ones. This leads to an increase in the level of e-waste – 40 million tons per year. And so, University of Chicago scientists Jasmine Lu and Pedro Lopez came up with an original solution, literally reviving the device.
And it’s not a figure of speech. They have developed a smartwatch that contains the slime mold Physarum polycephalum. This is a unique creature that can be considered an evolutionary outsider as it sits between the plant and animal kingdoms. At the same time, the slime mold can conduct electricity and remember information, although it does not have a nervous system. But it is in the watch that its first feature is applied.
The device has a heart rate sensor, but this function depends on the health of the slime mold. If he is regularly fed a mixture of water and oats, this stimulates the growth of the body, which will complete the circuit, then the heart rate sensor can transmit readings. If you do not feed the slime mold, he hibernates for a long time – months or even years.
After assembling the clock, research began. Five participants wore the device for two weeks. In the first week, users looked after and fed the slime mold, and in the second, they stopped doing this at the request of the scientists.
As it turned out, users developed an attachment to the watch and the slime mold, some even perceived it as a pet. The emotional connection was stronger than a similar attachment to a virtual pet, like a Tamagotchi.
This research could be the basis for creating new technologies based on slime molds, and could also stimulate the development of solutions that will be mutually beneficial.