Researchers Hack Plants to React to Our Emotions, Express Empathy

DigInfo/Video screen capture

We know that office plants can make us healthier and happier and that reconnecting with nature improves our mental and physical health. But what if we could create plants that actually physically react to our emotions and express them right back at us? What if that house plant sitting on your desk could nod in sympathy as you vent your frustrations about a client, or do a little leap for joy when you successfully pull off a big contract?

That seems to be the thinking behind a research project at Keio University which aims to "make living plants seem even more alive, and give them a greater presence" by reacting directly to what we are thinking and feeling.

At first I assumed it was a freaky experiment in biotechnology/telepathy, but it seems that it is more akin to puppetry—with a series of sensor-controlled motors being attached to plants by a series of wires.

DigInfo/Video screen capture

I confess I did wonder whether this was an April Fools joke that I stumbled across late, but given that the video was uploaded on April 2nd, it would appear to be for real. Besides the absurdity of a plant moving about in concert with my feelings, I have to wonder what this says about our detachment from nature—how can a living plant seem "even more alive" in the first place!?

Either way, it's very strange. As for researcher Furi Sawaki's intent to explore "how plants could be utilized as content", I confess to being intrigued. Perhaps we'll soon be able to watch the entire works of Shakespeare being performed on our desks by a small troop of cacti. Now that would actually be pretty cool...

Tags: Gadgets | Japan

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