Infotropism is a project that explores the use of living material and biomimetic forms in displays, and the use of lightweight robotics to deliver simple rewards.

The system combines living plants with a robotic analogue that mimics phototropic behavior.


The plant and its robotic counterpart were installed in a cafeteria between pairs of trash and recycling containers. Contributions of recyclables or trash triggered directional bursts of light that gradually induced the plant displays to lean toward the more active container.

The system appeared to increase recycling behavior. The immediate feedback of a light turning on may have prompted people to recycle. Besides, they linked the green color of the display stands and the presence of the plants to an environmental theme. Third, gains in recycling may have resulted from a desire to help the plants as people realized that recycling was a way to give the plants light. Meanwhile, an increase in recycling behavior was also observed with the robotic plant display, but the strong initial interest it first got declined after 2 days.

A work by David Holstius, John Kembel, Amy Hurst, Peng-Hui Wan and Jodi Forlizzi at Carnegie Mellon.

Via Information Aesthetics. PDF.