Professor Hiroshi Ishii from the MIT Media Lab suggested that we should consider the concept of “impedance matching” from the world of electronics engineering and to appropriately select information to show in the ambient display.  The matching of information should take into consideration the semantic, metaphorical and iconic connections to the plant-based system, but also the inherent properties such as the speed of the color change.



color changing cabbage

Color change of the cabbage along the pH range


Babbage Cabbage at Laval Virtual

Roshan Lalintha Peiris demonstrating the Babbage Cabbage at the Laval Virtual conference


Babbage Cabbage at Laval Virtual

Roshan Lalintha Peiris demonstrating the Babbage Cabbage at the Laval Virtual conference





Babbage Cabbage environmental display

Conceptual render of the “Environmental Stock Market” display in which the ecological outlook of a country is represented in the color change of the cabbage in a public display. When the economy thrives on businesses that have a negative environmental impact, the cabbage changes color to reflect this and raise awareness.

This project was one of the projects exploring living media.  Please have a look at our project on glowing bacteria as a living ambient display!


Publications related to the Babbage Cabbage

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.

Merritt, T., Cheok, A.D., O.N.N. Fernando, Peiris, R.L., Fernando, C.L., Empathetic Biological Media. Workshop “Programming reality: from transitive materials to organic user interfaces”. The 27th Annual CHI Conference, Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI 2009 (Boston, MA, USA, April 4 – 5, 2009).

A.D. Cheok, R.T.K.C. Tan, T. Merritt, O.N.N. Fernando, Y.P. Sen and D.T.K. Nguyen. 2008. Empathetic Living Media. ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems DIS 2008, February 2008, Cape Town, South Africa, pp. 465-473.

National University of Singapore News Portal –

Babbage Cabbage

Babbage Cabbage visualization of the control system with mechatronic controls adjusting the acid and base solution delivered to the cabbage to cause a color change



Babbage Cabbage

Babbage Cabbage system diagram



Babbage Cabbage installed in an office setting

Babbage Cabbage installed in an office foyer to serve as an ambient public display.