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What happens to this living smartwatch if you don’t feed it?

Answer: It dies.

A young woman looking at her watch.
Shutterstock/Teerasan Phutthigorn
Anyone who has tried and failed to keep a Tamagotchi alive knows that it can be easy not to care too much for your digital devices because, well, they aren’t alive. But what if they were?

That’s the idea behind this smartwatch developed by a team of researchers at the University of Chicago. The watch contains an actual living organism inside it — a physarum polycephalum slime mold that lives in a clear part of the device’s housing. The slime needs to be fed to stay alive with a drop of water twice a day and oats every two days.

When the slime is healthy and well cared for, it grows to the point that it becomes a live wire that actually powers the watch’s health monitoring features, so you know that it’s thriving. If it is neglected, it shrinks and breaks the connection. In a study where five women wore the watch and cared for it in the first phase and then neglected it in the second, they reported feeling an attachment to the slime and a desire to care for it. Some of them also said they had a hard time neglecting it because of this.