Smartwatch powered by “slime” that needs to be watered and fed

One of the reasons why I don’t want to have pets (aside from the fact that I don’t really like them) is that I don’t like the responsibility of caring for other creatures. I’m afraid I will probably forget to feed them leading to them getting sick and eventually dying. But trying to learn to be responsible for other living things is probably something that most people would like to learn. If I can remember to charge my electronics, I should be able to remember to feed another organism. What if you could combine those two?

Designer: Jasmine Lu and Pedro Lopes

Of course you know about virtual pets like Tamagochi but this “experiment” seems to bring this to another level. Two scientists from the University of Chicago have come up with a living organism that can be attached to a smartwatch and power it, as long as the owner feeds it and keeps it alive. The idea behind this is not really to come up with a new device that can be powered by slime but to actually create a symbiotic relationship with gadgets and see how this affects the users.

The smartwatch’s function is pretty basic and the design is also minimalist since the latter isn’t really the point. It can tell time and it can also measure your heart rate. But how it is able to do so is where the experimental part comes in. The device has three main components: the slime mold or the living organism which is scientifically called the physarum polycephalum, the organism enclosure which is able to connect electronically to the watch, and the “watch electronics” itself. The enclosure has four layers which includes the lid, wells, channel, and magnets.

So you need to feed the slime with oats (every two days) and water it 1-2 times a day. As long as it’s healthy, it will be able to power your heart rate monitor. But if you forget to feed it, it will dry up and your monitor will not work anymore. Most of the wearers in the experiment actually became attached to their devices, even though it’s basically just slime on your wrist. The point that they want to make is that there should be a focus on caring for our devices rather than just constantly consuming them and replacing them when the next shiny thing comes along.