When new and cool gadgets hit the market, people often ditch their old gadgets and form long lines to pre-order in-store or online. On the one hand, discarded electronics pile up on the other side as toxic e-waste, polluting us. environment.
E-waste has emerged as a major global problem, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimating that 40 million tonnes of waste are produced annually worldwide due to a “get new, throw away old” lifestyle. of new E-waste is estimated to be generated. However, a team of scientists at the Human Computer Integration Lab at the University of Chicago (UC) has proposed a unique solution to the problem. They have developed a smartwatch that is essentially a pet of mold.
Apart from displaying the time, the watch also features a heart rate monitor powered by a living slime mold. Smartwatches have side panels where slime molds live and grow. The heart monitor only works when the slime mold is in perfect condition, and must be fed and cared for by the user in order to function properly.
UC researchers believe that humans don’t have an emotional attachment to old gadgets, so they throw them away easily. This approach, they say, encourages people to develop a love for their gadgets and try to use them longer.
As humans, we are naturally sensitive to life. When you’re emotionally attached to a living thing, you can’t throw it out of your life like you throw a gadget away. The slime mold smartwatch works in the same way. Wearing the watch, the user has a living creature on their wrist. This can change the way your gadget is perceived. Many people think twice before throwing away such a smartwatch.
“When new devices are released, millions of old devices end up in e-waste heaps.” E-waste record in 2019 was 53.6 million tonnes, a 21% increase in just five years . Many researchers, thinkers and policy makers argue that we have a different relationship with our devices. (We) seek ways to create alternative, more caring relationships and attitudes in hopes that changing relationships will encourage users to connect to their devices more responsibly and extend the life of their devices. I’ve been
Slime mold smartwatch needs maintenance
The slime mold smartwatch is fitted with a transparent panel containing two enclosures connected to each other via a thin tubular structure. Fissalum Polycephalum (also known as “blobs”). These acellular organisms are electrically conductive, meaning that electricity flows through their bodies. Several previous studies have shown that slime molds also function as self-repairing wires.
“This smartwatch is designed to attach a small acrylic enclosure clip,” Jasmine Liu, one of the study authors, told ZME Science. “This enclosure is where the slime mold grows and feeds. Clipping the enclosure to the watch connects the slime mold to the watch’s electronic circuitry. As far as we know, this uses the slime mold to Although it was the first everyday device made entirely from scratch, previous researchers and artists have created various artworks, robots, and sensors.
The internal structure of the smartwatch’s transparent panel works like an electric circuit. A heart rate monitor will only work when this circuit is complete. For this purpose, the user should regularly supply the enclosed slime mold with oats and water. I hope you grow up healthy and spread to the second circle.
Once the tube and second enclosure are also occupied, Fissalum Polycephalum, organisms act like wires that transmit electrical signals and activate heart-monitoring sensors. Now users can always see their heart rate on the watch display. Like pets, slime molds need regular care. If the user fails to provide the necessary nutrition, the organism ceases its activity, becomes dormant, and the heart monitor ceases to function.
To see how living electronic devices affect human-technology interactions, the study authors conducted an interesting experiment. They observed the behavior of her five participants wearing slime mold smartwatches for two weeks. Participants were also asked to write down feedback and write answers to some questions in a journal. The researchers wanted to know if this would make users care more about their slime gadgets.
“Our device is intended to foster discussion about how to care for the device and is not a consumer device that is supposed to be used in daily life,” Liu explained in an email. The problem of e-waste is a big problem for our society and very complicated. Mitigating the impact of e-waste requires intervention on multiple fronts. One of the challenges is changing our relationship with our devices. Rather than acting solely as consumers or users of our devices (which could allow us to inadvertently dispose of them), we believe that our devices have other designs that promote device care. I hope it makes an impact. ”
Participants fed and cared for themselves for the first week, but were suddenly told to stop growing the slime mold the next week. Most smartwatch users found it difficult to do so. They also admitted that they felt an obsession with slime molds and developed a sort of connection with living things. Is this connection the same thing people feel about virtual characters and digital pets? Join claimed to be similar to what is commonly seen in real-life human-pet relationships.
Pedro Lobes, one of the authors and an assistant professor at UC, said:
“People[attendees]were shocked. Almost all of them were like, ‘Really? Some feel like the connection is broken.” He added, “When people discuss their experiences with regular smartwatches, Fitbits, or other wearable devices, people see it as a clear purpose. And with this device, it felt like a two-way relationship because you have to take care of it. I felt like I couldn’t even put it in the closet.”
Researchers have demonstrated that adding the element of life can change the way humans interact with technology. They hope their slime mold smartwatch will encourage gadget makers to come up with devices that encourage “compassion” instead of normal human use and throwing behavior.
This research and slime mold smartwatch ACM Symposium 2022.