Your house plants are definitely sending you a message when they wilt or drop leaves on the floor. But what if they could actually “speak” to you and convey how they’re feeling?
Project Florence, an endeavor out of Microsoft Research’s Studio 99 program, aims to help plants and humans communicate with one another, beyond a gardener just whispering sweet nothings to her favorite fern. A report in Fast Company highlights the effort lead by post-doc researcher Helene Steiner.
Project Florence relies on a sensor-loaded plant capsule that is connected to a computer. A message sent to the plant is mapped for sentiment, which is translated to a series of Morse Code-like blinks. The changing light triggers a response in the plant cells in the form of electrical signals. The signals can vary depending on environmental conditions — and they can be captured by sensors on the plant’s leaves and roots as well as in the soil and air. The plant effectively generates a response to your positive or negative sentiment.
No, the plant doesn’t just mutter, “I am Groot” over and over. Florence relies on Twitter, where it searches for tweets similar to the plant’s “feelings” and uses those words to create a reply. In the video above, the user types “Good morning” into the machine and the plant replies, “All well and good this morning …”
Asta Roseway, a principal research designer at Microsoft Research, told Fast Company that the project has “raised a lot of visibility across the company” and that they’ve been approached by groups across Microsoft in agriculture and urban farming as the company expands its research in the field.
“We wanted to create an idea around the Internet of Things,” Roseway said. “That seems to be a hot topic, all things connected, and we wanted to generate another kind of future where we’re getting away from ‘your refrigerator talks to your watch!’ We wanted to make a radical departure there.”