The Tamagotchi is a delightful digital pet on a keychain that you must feed by pressing buttons to keep it "alive." Now, University of Chicago researchers have built a similar device into a wristwatch but, in this case, the organism is truly alive and must be fed with water and oats for the timepiece to function. Integrated into the wristwatch is a an "electrically conductive single-cell organism," also known as slime mold.
The watches were designed and built by Lu to tell time and measure the wearer's heart rate. However, the second function is dependent upon the health and unique characteristics of Physarum polycephalum, a species of slime mold sometimes called "the blob," for its rapid growth, resilience and curious maze-solving abilities.
The organism is placed in an enclosure on the watch, and the user must regularly feed it a mixture of water and oats to induce its growth. When the slime mold reaches the other side of the enclosure, it forms an electrical circuit that activates the heart rate monitor function. The organism can also enter a dormant state when not fed, allowing for revival days, months, or even years later.
"A lot of human-computer interaction research is motivated by making things easier to use and faster to use," [researcher Pedro] Lopes said. "But [my colleague Jasmine Lu] thought there should be more friction; you should have to care for it and feed it every day, for the sake of just having to reflect on it. So, it's like half art piece and half research paper."
(via Oddity Central)