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Cyborg houseplants can wave back at you

Japanese researchers have added sensors and actuators to plants so they can move and communicate their "feelings." Do you crave a plug-in fern?

Mad scientists at Keio University's Inami Lab in Yokohama, Japan, are set to unleash cyborg houseplants on the world.

Just don't robotize my Chia Pet. Inami Lab

Shown off at the recent Interaction 2012 in Tokyo, the "interactive plants" can move their branches in response to people moving around them.

As seen in the video below, they've been rigged with motion sensors, microphones, actuators, and wires, which make their leaves sway when someone approaches. The mechanism is hardly visible, making it seem like the plants are trying to give you a high-five out of their own free will.

The researchers have also defined sets of motions as various emotions supposedly expressed by the plants, such as anger. If you haven't watered that Devil's Ivy in weeks, you're going to regret it big time.

The research group says the plants haven't suffered any ill effects from becoming cyborgs. Indeed, it wants to develop better actuators and wires to move larger plants. Who knows? Your ficus just might slap you in the face one day.

The purpose of this bizarre project is to make the plants seem more "alive" than your garden-variety, non-robotic potted friends. This, the researchers believe, might encourage more interaction between humans and plants.

That seems like a sad comment on humanity. To suggest that we need to artificially animate plants marionette-style to notice them -- and then ascribe emotions to them -- is a bit pathetic.

It all reminds me of an old Genesis tune, "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," a tale of English gardeners who unwittingly create an army of killer plants. It's still instructive today.

(Via DigInfo)