A former alumnus of Punjabi University, currently working with Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, scientist Harpreet Sareen has developed the ‘cyborg botany’ technology. This technology can aid in turning plants into security devices!
Harpreet, who finished his MSc from MIT Cambridge, is working as an assistant professor at the Parsons School of Design’s Art, Media and Technology school. He and his fellow associate Pattie Maes have come up with the idea to utilise the natural abilities of plants for sensory detection.
They have incorporated sensors that are connected to plants. These sensors have the capability to detect human or animal presence, and when they do, they sound an alert. By the help of these alerts, the military spaces can be more careful and vigilant about any prospective threats.
Harpreet spoke to TOI, a news channel in India, from the USA and said that plants are self-repairing and self-regenerating organisms that are available readily. With the help of Cyborg Botany, Harpreet and his associate Pattie Maes envision a convergent design world in which they can use these natural capabilities for a new bio-interaction design. Until now, both of them have been working on two projects – Phytoactuators, that act as outputs, and Planta Digitalis, that act as inputs. Both of these work in relation to human interaction.
Phytoactuators and Planta Digitalis
Image Source: i.ytimg.com
Phytoactuator is a plant-based mechanism that works perfectly for detection of any presence around the plant. It has a mechanism that triggers a Venus flytrap to react. When the Phytoactuator is attached with electrodes through the plant, it allows the reception of signals and by the help of an accompanying app, users can control when the mouth of a flytrap can shut.
The Planta Digitalis operates on the principle that plants can take in information about the world around them. Using this knowledge, researchers worked on a conductive wire that is placed inside the plant with the help of water-soluble polymer ProDOT. This water-soluble polymer helps the wire stay intact and aids in the reception of signals. The starting point for this new cyber plant begins with this conductive wire, allowing other instruments to connect to it like the sensors of an antenna.
Much prior to this, Harpreet had used light sensing capacities of plants and developed plant-robot hybrid that is named Elowan. This robotic mechanism drew the plant towards light when it is placed on wheels.
In the international conference on human factors in computing systems that was recently held in Glasgow, they showcased their research. They effectively demonstrated how plants have the capability to detect the movement of animals and humans by sending an alert to the phone. This finding will primarily benefit the military in ways unimaginable, helping them keep a track of movements all around.
The team is also working to establish a way to convert the signals by Planta Digitalis into a language. The researchers believe that technology can merge plants and artificial electronics that in turn helps to create new interfaces. These interfaces can act as an aid to plants and can be used to send notifications.
Isn’t this a wonderful invention?0