This Bizarre New Smartwatch Contains A Living Organism

Scientists at the University of Chicago have designed a bizarre, partially alive smartwatch. It brings a heart rate monitor, powered by electrically conductive slime mold.

Taking care of the watch is key, according to a study presented at the 2022 ACM Symposium on Userface Interface Software and Technology, because the Physarum polycephalum slime mold, known as the “blob” needs to reach from one end of its enclosure to the other to complete an electrical circuit that powers the heart rate monitor.

“People were forced to think about their relationship to devices in a lot of really interesting ways,” said lead author Jasmine Lu, a researcher at UChicago’s Human-Computer Integration Lab, in a press release.

Now, people have to take care of their gadgets more as there is a living organism inside!

The gadget brought some amusing responses from the five participants who wore it for two weeks each and recorded their feelings in journals and interviews.

The first week was mostly dedicated to growing the slime until it finally was able to bring power to the heart rate monitor.

By the second week, the researchers told the participants to stop feeding the slime at all.

“People were shocked; almost all of them were like, ‘Really? I have to do that?'” recalled coauthor Pedro Lopes, an assistant professor of computer sciences at UChicago. “There were very human responses. Some people were sad, some people really felt like the connection was broken.”

Lu argues that from the way consumer devices are designed now, “those aspects of care are less focused on or are made inaccessible; they are made so that you trash them, instead of engaging with them more.”

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