It has long been hypothesized that plants can think and even make rational decisions. Take a houseplant and move it around a room, altering the angles in which it receives sunlight, and you’ll see the plant actually grow differently so as to get more sunshine. That would imply some kind of cognitive abilities, right? If you need more convincing that plants are more than just simple organic being, check out this plant that is capable of moving around on its own!
Scientists at the MIT Media Lab have taken the research surrounding the cognitive abilities of plants to a whole new level. They’ve created Elowan, a houseplant that comes with its very own robot that can drive it around at will. How does it work? Take the example we mentioned earlier. When a typical plant rooted in a pot or in the ground needs more light, they tend to just bend and grow toward the closest light source. When Elowan needs more light, it communicates with the robot and just drives closer to a light source.
The researchers say that it’s the plants’ internal electrical signals that make this possible. The plants will send those signals directly to receivers in the robotic device and then it’s off to the races. The experiment is not only interesting to watch in real-time, but it also further proves that plants are bioelectrical organisms, fully capable of sending signals between their internal cells to improve their quality of life. So far, the experiment with Elowan has proved that plants will change their electrical pulses in response to changes in light, temperature, external injury, mechanical stimuli, and even changes in gravity.
The scientists involved in the project hope that the implications will ultimately reach much further than most of us might initially presume. Technology has long played an important part in improving the quality of life for the human race. The team working with Elowan are hoping that their research will influence technology so that it becomes a more holistic, nature-centric phenomenon that improves life for all organisms on Earth, not just the humans.