Babbage Cabbage

Babbage Cabbage


Babbage Cabbage is a new form of empathetic living media used to communicate social or ecological information in the form of a living slow media feedback display. In the fast paced modern world people are generally too busy to monitor various significant social or human aspects of their lives, such as time spent with their family, their overall health, state of the ecology, etc. By quantifying such information digitally, information is coupled into living plants, providing a media that connects with the user in a way that traditional electronic digital media can not. An impedance match is made to couple important information in the world with the output media, relating these issues to the color changing properties of the living red cabbage.

Babbage Cabbage

The motivation behind this research is two-pronged. Firstly, to inform, through ambient living media that elicits human emotions such as empathy and care for the social and organic happenings around a person’s life. Our thesis is that, just as a human reacts differently when receiving or appreciating a living flower rather than a plastic replica, so too would a living media promote more human interest and empathy about organic based information. Living things evoke feelings related to empathy and recognition of a common struggle in the world which is different than what can be evoked by artificial or digital imitations. This is based on the fact that it has been shown that humans have true empathy for creatures which are alive. Secondly, the use of living organisms to represent the significant portions of one’s life adds semantics to the manifestation, since social aspects such as relationships and addictions thrive and decay, so would aspects of the living organism. Thus, by tying together digital media with the living world, we can develop media that evokes emotions including empathy and care regarding social and ecological information.
We hope that by radically exploring into the realms of empathetic living media the boundaries of technology may be challenged, and new waves of innovations may thus be brought forth through the use of other living organisms to create other forms of interactive empathetic living media. It is most important to have an impedance match between the coupling of the input and output of the media. In this case the media is living, and can grow, decay, and change various hues of colors. Therefore we propose it to be tightly coupled with digitally measured information which represents social, human or ecological information such as families, health, emotions, ecosystems, etc.

There are a few key areas of research that are related to our living media system and provide key background elements. The first area of research pertains to the user interaction issues. Living media seems most appropriate as a peripheral interface permitting the user to engage and bring it into focus as desired. Another key area pertains to the research on living organisms, which are a kind of media, in the broad definition as an extension of man.


  • Owen Noel Newton Fernando, Adrian David Cheok, Tim Merritt, Roshan Lalintha Peiris, Charith Lasantha Fernando, Nimesha Ranasinghe, Inosha Wickrama, Kasun Karunanayaka (2009): Babbage Cabbage: Biological Empathetic Media, VRIC Laval Virtual Proceedings, April 22-26, 2009, Laval, France. pp. 363-366.
  • Babbage Cabbage – featured in the NUS Annual Report 2008 (pg. 45)
  • Babbage Cabbage – featured in the NUS Website Research Gallery under title “Cabbages can warn us of danger”
  • “Babbage Cabbage”, demonstrated at the Laval Virtual Revolution 2009 under the “Welcome” catergory  in Laval, France April 2009
  • Babbage Cabbage, nominated for the LAVAL VIRTUAL AWARDS 2009, in the Interfaces and Materials Catergory
  • Babbage Cabbage, Winner of the Laval Virtual Revolution 2009 Competition which honors the world’s finest virtual Reality projects, held in Laval, France April 2009
  • Babbage Cabbage, short listed to the top 53 finalists out of 295 entries at the 80+1 “Live Bits”, Ars Electronica
  • Babbage Cabbage, third place at the “Nokia Ubimedia Mindtrek Awards” Tampere University of Technology in Finland

Final Video

Representative images

Hi Resolution Representative Image

Empathy Transfer Concept Diagram

Single Pixel System and Garden System

Overall System Diagram

Student Wiki’s

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