This Art Installation Allows a Plant To Use a Machete With Its Own “Thoughts”

published Oct 5, 2022
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Fiddle leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, plant in circle white pot and place at the Corner of stair or ladder for decorate home or room. And there is sunlight coming from the right hand window.
Credit: AnanR2107 | Getty Images

Many plant parents have admitted to talking to their plants like their pets or roommates. And though it hasn’t reached that point in the future where plants can talk back, one artist has found a way to show how plants could actually be able to communicate.

“Plant Machete” is a new installation by artist David Bowen that allows a philodendron to move a machete using a bionic arm controlled by its “thoughts” — aka the electrical noises found within the living plant.

The system uses an open-source microcontroller connected to the plant’s leaves via nodes and reads varying resistance signals across the leaves. Then, a custom technology translates the plant’s signals into real-time motion via the robotic arm. Sensors connect to various joints that control how the machete at the end of the arm moves in space.

“This installation enables a live plant to control a machete. Plant machete has a control system that reads and utilizes the electrical signals found in a philodendron plant. The system uses a micro-controller connected to the plant to read varying resistance data across the plant’s leaves,” Bowen explained in an Instagram caption. 

He continued, “Using custom software, these signals are mapped in real-time to the movements of the joints of an industrial robot holding a machete. In this way, the movements of the machete are determined based on inputs from the plant. Essentially the plant is the brain of the robot controlling the machete determining how it swings, jabs, slices and interacts in space.”

Of course, there’s still quite the language barrier between humans and their houseplants. But Bowen brought us one step closer to having a philodendron as a best friend (or, with that machete in hand, a worst enemy!).