The Thing With E.coli: Highlighting Opportunities and Challenges of Integrating Bacteria in IoT and HCI
With advances in nano- and biotechnology, bacteria are receiving increasing attention in scientific research as a potential substrate for Internet of Bio-Nano Things (IoBNT), which involve networking and communication through nanoscale and biological entities. Harnessing the special features of bacteria, including an ability to become autonomous - helped by an embedded, natural propeller motor - the microbes show promising array of application in healthcare and environmental health. In this paper, we briefly outline significant features of bacteria that allow analogies between them and traditional computerized IoT device to be made. We argue that such comparisons are critical in terms of helping researchers to explore human-bacteria interaction in the context of IoT and HCI. Furthermore, we highlight the current lack of tangible infrastructure for researchers in IoT and HCI to access and experiment with bacteria. As a potential solution, we propose to utilize the DIY biology movement and gamification techniques to leverage user engagement and introduction to bacteria.