Electronic waste, aka e-waste, refers to the disposal of used electronic devices. It is the fastest-growing category of waste, and currently generates about 40 million tons each year. According to a recent TechXplore article, researchers at University of Chicago are working to combat e-waste by literally bringing devices to life. Specifically, they are using “slime mold,” a single-cell organism that can conduct electricity, to power a smart watch. As long as the organism is healthy, the watch will work. But this requires the user to provide it with food and care, similar to a virtual pet.
The team then evaluated how the wearer perceived the technology, knowing that it was a living organism and part of a mutually beneficial partnership. One of the scientists working on the project noted, “...with this device, it felt more like a bi-directional relationship because they had to care for it. They also had some sort of attachment to it because it’s living, and they felt like they couldn’t throw it away, or just put it in a closet.” A video with more information can be seen here.