Some of us talk to our plants. But what about touching them to turn on or off a television set? An emerging technology unveiled at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles this week lets users control electronic devices by touching their plants in different ways. We're about to know our houseplants extremely well.
Dubbed "Botanicus Interacticus," the system is the brainchild of a group of digital media experts led by Ivan Poupyrev, a senior research scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. Poupyrev and his colleagues were seeking new ways to interact with plants, and even give them a voice. Personally, I've always wanted to spend more quality time with my jades.
Botanicus Interacticus isn't a regular touchscreen interface, though. An electrode connected to a special wire is placed in the soil and runs along the plant. This allows precise gestures to be detected and then mapped on a computer. The researchers say this won't harm the plant, especially not a fake one.
The setup comes from technology created at Disney Research that can detect touch and gestures with any conductive material, according to research producer Jason Hintz Llopis. The wire running along the plant uses a technique called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing so the plant can recognize more complex gestures like hand sliding and varying amounts of pressure.
Suddenly plants aren't just plants. They can be used as remote controls to change the channel or increase the volume on the TV. Or waving at it could adjust the room temperature. The entertainment possibilities seem endless. Your philodendron could even get in on a Wii game.
When all our yuccas and ferns get hooked up, plastic remotes and keyboards are going to be passé. Just don't try this with a cactus.
Photo: Botanicus Interacticus gives living plants touch and gesture sensitivity. Credit: Disney Research