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My friend Donna in Canada sent me this piece. It was in the Province Newspaper today [2nd February '09] in Vancouver – Taken from Jill Rosen at the Baltimore Sun, and titled “Get Twitter Updates from your Houseplant”.
The technology that enables humans and houseplants to take their relationship to the next level comes from a company called Botanicalls, which sells $99 kits for just that purpose.
It’s not only a nifty gadget charming wonks and gardeners,. Botanicalls, some say, is indicative of the next wave in commerical technology, devices that allow us to interact not just with each other but with our homes, our pets , our possessions.
Botanicalls is the brainchild of three students in NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications program, a two year graduate program in the school’s arts department.
The idea hatched when some of the students were sitting around in their New York office, wistfully missing nature. Someone mentioned getting some plants. Someone else pointed out that no one would remember to water them and they would die.
“Eventually we came to the idea of what if a plant could just make us a telephone call?” remembers Kate Hartman, one of the Botanicall’s three partners. “What if we could pick up the phone in the lounge and it’s the plant on the windowsill, calling to say it wants to be watered?”
The first generation of the Botanicalls technology used the telephone. The creators rigged a moisture sensor to stick in a plant’s soil to sense how wet the dirt is and then pass that information ot a microchip. The chip, in turn, sent the information through the Internet to a phone. The phone would ring, a person would answer and “the plant”, in its own individal voice – complete with accents – would have a few words to say about its condition.
Because hardware for the phone system was so essxpensive, it wasn’t practical to sell. That’s where the Twitter version, released late last year, comes in.
“It’s simpler and easier to maintain,” Hartman explains,”With a phone, we needed a server and it was expensive to send calls. With Twitter, it’s free and the hardware connects right to Twitter!”