As a plant parent, it's time to give your houseplants freedom (and a set of wheels).

By Jenny Krane
December 04, 2018

So you're a notorious black thumb and kill even the easiest houseplants to grow. It's hard to tell what's going wrong with your plants when they can't talk to you—signs of a failing plant can be correlated to multiple problems, making it difficult to figure out what you're doing wrong. What if we told you that your houseplant could care for itself? Meet Elowan, MIT Media Lab’s latest tech advancement in indoor gardening. It’s nature on wheels.

Plants tend to naturally bend and grow toward light, and this machine was invented with that in mind. The contraption serves as a scooter for a potted houseplant and allows the plant to wheel toward light if it needs it.

According to the project’s website, “Plants are electrically active systems.” They use electrochemical signals to respond to changes in light, gravity, mechanical stimulation, temperature, wounding, and other environmental conditions. Elowan uses electrical signals that read the electrochemistry of the plant and adjust the light amounts to the plant’s needs.

Elowan is just one of many in a series of plant experiments that MIT is calling Cyborg Botany, where they explore the interaction between technology and nature. Cyborg Botany aims to use plant traits in cooperation with technology, rather than creating new technology that mimics what plants are already doing on their own. Plants may be able to do more amazing things—we'll just have to wait and see.


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