Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Disney Turns Plants Into Multi-Touch Sensors 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the touching-the-leaf dept.
SchrodingerZ writes "Designers of Disney Research in Pittsburgh Pa, have turned the average household plant into a musical device and remote control. Called the Botanicus Interacticus project, this new program can turn any household plant into touch-sensitive computer system. 'The system is built upon capacitive touch sensing — the principle used on touchscreens in smartphones and tablets — but instead of sensing electrical signals at a single frequency, it monitors capacitive signals across a broad range of frequencies. It's called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing.' This works by putting a pulsating electrode into the soil around a plant, which excites the plant, making any touch to the parts of the plant a replayable signal. This could mean soon swatting at your household plant could change the television channel or turn up the volume (PDF)."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Disney Turns Plants Into Multi-Touch Sensors

Comments Filter:
  • Botanical abuse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:20AM (#40972695)

    While an interesting development, I don't believe the average plant would thrive with the abuse of a std remote control usage.

    • by durrr (1316311) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:28AM (#40972787)

      I'm growing a pair of melons and I intend to be very gentle with how I touch them.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      While an interesting development, I don't believe the average plant would thrive with the abuse of a std remote control usage.

      It would work with any conductive material. It would work with dogs or humans or anything else that wasn't a good insulator. Kind of cool concept, but I saw far more interesting engineering when I worked there -- like the jumping fountains and the robot presidents.

      And Disney is a weird place. If something looks real, it's probably fake. If it looks fake, it's probably real -- and thi

      • by ai4px (1244212)

        It would work with dogs or humans or anything else that wasn't a good insulator.

        I touch myself??

      • This is so technomage. I bet it has significant security implications though, imagine if your lawn or trees in a forest could be used as a tripwire system. Could it be detected, up close or at a distance?

    • by camperslo (704715)

      While an interesting development, I don't believe the average plant would thrive with the abuse of a std remote control usage.

      Perhaps a more massive plant should be the subject of experimentation:

      The Couch Potato.

    • I think this could be modified to detect bugs on the plant. Right now we are using pesticides or bio-engineering plants to produce their own. But if we can get Real time monitoring of each plant we may be able to to make agriculture from a losing preventative maintenance to an effective reactive maintenance. If we know where the bugs are, we could embed lasers onto robotic farm equipment and zap the bugs dead without having to use chemicals.

    • Damnit honey! I forgot to water my touch sensitive willow Wii controller again. Do we have any Miracle Gro under the sink?
  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:21AM (#40972715)

    Can I get a potted plant to serve as an editor?

    Or has this already happened?

  • Sensitive Plant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:21AM (#40972719) Journal

    Combine this with a sensitive plant [wikipedia.org] and you can have a lot of fun!

    • by realsilly (186931)

      We've had those plants growing in my family's garden for nearly 50 years. They are really neat.

      • by camperslo (704715)

        I think there were some on the old tv show, The Adamms Family.

        Then there was the Lost in Space episode, "The Great Vegetable Rebellion".
        (on Hulu?)

        As the Robinsons celebrate the Robot's birthday, Dr. Smith sneaks off in the space pod to a planet dominated by plants. After pulling a flower, he is accused of murder by Tybo, a carrot-man, who punishes him to an eternity of literal tree-hugging. The family lands to search for Smith and meets a purple-haired botanist named Willoughby who explains that Tybo is the

  • That poor plant!
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:30AM (#40972817) Journal

    > "This works by putting a pulsating electrode into the soil
    > around a plant, which excites the plant, making any touch
    > to the parts of the plant a repayable signal."

    Finally, nerds whose inability to get the girl has led to a useful perversion.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Finally, nerds whose inability to get the girl has led to a useful perversion.

      Rule 34. And I shudder to contemplate that too much. :-P

  • by kiehlster (844523) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:34AM (#40972861) Homepage
    This was covered on Slashdot back in May [slashdot.org] as the Touché which turns any surface into a multi-touch surface. I'm wondering what made the hype return three months later with plants. It's cool that you can use this on plants, but why plants when you can do anything else that exists in an office environment. After all, plants need watering. Why not just use plastic plants? Or, are we all that much more interested in creating a visible emotional bond with our house plants?
    • by vlm (69642)

      Or, are we all that much more interested in creating a visible emotional bond with our house plants?

      I think its an agribusiness lure, like spray individual plants with (organic?) insecticide if and only if a bug is detected on that individual plant. How you'd tell the difference between a raindrop hitting it and a grasshopper hitting it is unclear. Personalized bug spraying is an interesting idea.

      The closest similar thing is the old "motion detector connected to water sprayer" thing that's been available for years which theoretically repels at least some feral housepets. So rather than spraying water o

    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      Disney has licensed the rights to build an Avatar-themed land at Animal Kingdom, Disney World. This kind of technology was probably developed for use there.
    • It's even older than that. I vaguely remember this from my childhood. There was an Earth Day tv special with a girl who stumbled around learning about "nature" and at one point winds up in a wired arboretum where the plants are wired to a synthesizer to play notes when you touch them. I can't remember now if it was a Disney production but I suspect this has been around for a long time.
    • Don't know... ...they stated in the video that each plant was a unique circuit and would therefore output unique results. Perhaps unlike a laminated tabletop, the plant also moves and changes too. I'd like to try it with a shaven cat. But here's a question; could this lead to a legalized form of audio-marijuana? You could listen but not smoke...
    • I didnt look too closely because it was crowded. There were a half dozen strange haptic (touch sensing/feedback) at SIGGRAPH.
      • by luckymutt (996573)
        I got a chance to play with it there. It was pretty bad ass.
        Do you remember seeing the bamboo stalk that was about 6' tall and video screen/mirror behind it?
        Touching at different heights would create a different musical note and there was visual feed back from the screen/mirror that let off a trippy color swirl where you touched it.
        Pretty cool.
        Those plants to touch on and off a lamp from the 80's have come a long way...surprised it took this long though.
  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:38AM (#40972903)
    ....reshoot the 'clapper' commercial. 'Plant on, plant off, plant on plant off, the planter.'

    Side question, does it work on Robert Plant?

    • Side question, does it work on Robert Plant?

      Only if you grab him by the root.

    • by Lando (9348)

      I seem to remember another product out around the same time as the clapper. If I remember correctly, it used a plant that when touched turned on and off a light. Seems like this is a similar system, except that it measures the resistance in the circuit in order to determine distance from the base of the plant. Pretty interesting, fun to play around with probably, but I can't think of any particularly useful applications.

      • I did valet services for the inventor of the Clapper (and many other things) when I was a kid. His name was Eric A. Kolm [legacy.com], seemed a really nice fellow and a good chess player too.
        • by Lando (9348)

          Very cool

          • He actually was "very cool"; unlike many of the others at the facility, he was consistently kind and always respectful. This was unusual behavior there. Over the years that I encountered him on occasion, he was in a wheelchair, but was almost always cheery and seemingly astute. I have forgotten many from that place, but certainly not him. And if I could edit my comment above, it seems according to the memorial article, that he was not merely a good chess player, but a master.

            So whenever, if ever you encou
  • by Xest (935314) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:45AM (#40972975)

    All my houseplants are Cacti.

    • by havana9 (101033)
      Maybe because you're Roadrunner or Speedy Gonzales so you belong to a Warner Bros cartoon?
      • by Xest (935314)

        I wish I was either of these as it would then mean I lived in a climate more to my tastes, rather than shitty rainy England.

      • maybe he's studied techniques on home defense, one of which is to place cactus plants by windows.
    • by cruff (171569)
      In the video they show a barrel cactus being used, and the person is reluctant (in a funny staged way) to touch it. When he does he gets pricked by a thorn.
      • by Xest (935314)

        (Non-)interesting trivia: Cacti are differentiated from other spiked plants by the fact they are pretty much unique in the plant world in actually having spines, rather than thorns, and that the spines on cacti are believed to have, in the case of more thickly spined species, evolved just as much for protection of their epidermis from the strong sunlight in the climates they inhabit as much as to protect them from would be hungry (and thirsty) mouths.

    • by ai4px (1244212)
      So changing the channels could be more painful that watching the stupid sitcom?
  • This could mean soon swatting at your household plant could change the television channel or turn up the volume."

    Or just swat a woman to have her get up and change the channel for you.

    What, too soon [slashdot.org]?
  • And what happens when that plant realizes it's power over the remote? Good-bye Superbowl, hello Garden Channel.
  • by KillaBeave (1037250) on Monday August 13, 2012 @10:02AM (#40973183)
    I want to take one of these setups to an organic orchard and program it to shriek in agony when someone picks the fruit. That should give those vegetarian hippies something to think about!
  • by afeeney (719690) on Monday August 13, 2012 @10:03AM (#40973199)

    A touch-sensitive plant could be used for home or business security. It could be trained to sense contact at a certain threshold of pressure (e.g., a human footstep versus a breeze or a small animal) and summon support appropriately. Add some solar-powered electricity (or a gene splice with an electric eel) and it could zap the intruder.

    Of course, there's only one thing they could call this application of the principle.

    Robocrop.

  • I'm not growing the marijuana for recreational purposes, it's part of my computer. I choose the mighty cannabis because it's a hardy stock that can grow most anywhere and of course, it helps me sleep.

  • Reminds me of The Secret Life of Plants [wikipedia.org], a very interesting book that has been generally dismissed as quackery. I wonder if any of it will ever be redeemed through future discoveries.
    And to all who laughed at the part of the video where the guy touches the cactus; me too!
    • by Whiteox (919863)

      Me too. That was the Indian guy Bose who did all the demonstration work.
      Another aspect of my '70s hallucenagia.

  • by clovis (4684) * on Monday August 13, 2012 @10:24AM (#40973473)

    I, for one, welcome our new botanical overlords.

  • I don't think I want my plants to be "excited".

  • tactile feedback is a good thing, right?

  • That would be a wonderfully mean practical joke to play on someone.

  • They should make it scream in pain every time you touch it
  • In Soviet Russia, plant touches you!
  • Just imagine the characters - Hotty Peppers, Cheery Tomatoes, Crabby Grass... Endless possibilities!
  • "Honey, did you just switch the TV channel on me or is that damn cat peeing on the rhododendron again?" Enjoy.
  • This is the single most useless piece of technology in the history of existence. EVER. Forever. More useless than a pet rock... rocks are at least camp-chic these days.
    • This is the single most useless piece of technology in the history of existence. EVER. Forever. More useless than a pet rock... rocks are at least camp-chic these days.

      That's fairly myopic and unimaginative, and you've apparently forgotten or are too young to remember Tomagotchi.

      The applications for unobtrusive perimeter security systems are interesting.

  • I remember seeing in Tokyo something like this.. exactly 20 years ago!
    I see it is also the first reference in the Siggraph 2012 paper [disneyresearch.com].
    At that time it was IIRC using a Silicon Graphics graphical supercomputer.. 16-way at the time? I don't remember.
    I was told that potted plants were wired to the computer so they became antenna and I remember it would work even without touching the plant. Some plants did better with different people. The right stroking would cause 3d graphics of plants built in real time using

    • by mattr (78516)

      p.s. I don't really remember if they said antenna or not, sounds like the capacitance mentioned in TFA. I thought the roots were wired.

  • So when Muffins or Sparky decide to play with / shred the plants, what will the tv do...

  • I love inventors!

    It's 22 years since Plant-a-Lamp [plantalamp.com] caused a sensation when it appeared on "Tomorrow's World" and since then it has made thousands of people smile all around the world.

  • The plant was asked to comment on this technology, and all it said was: "Oh no, not again."

    I speculate that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that, we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now.

  • This would bring new meaning to the phrase, "My remote died."
  • It seems like most corporate and government spaces have plants. If all of them become sensory inputs to the establishment's electronic monitoring system...

    I see some intriguing possibilities here. Just being in the same room as the plant will likely be enough to register you.

  • How will that affect the calibration? I can imagine that bamboo would need to be calibrated annoyingly often.

    Do dead parts work? (I'm not very kood at keeping indoor plants alive.)

: is not an identifier

Working...