Singing flowers used to live only in the fanciful realm of cartoons, but like something out of Alice in Wonderland, Disney Research presents “Botanicus Interacticus”, an interactive music game that uses a houseplant as controller. Simply sink a single wire into the soil and the system turns any plant into an interface – users can touch any part of the plant, or be in proximity. Using the same technology found in smartphone and touch-screen monitors, the game can detect where and how the plant is being manipulated, and change the frequency of the sounds it produces.
Much like the “aura” touch lamp developed by Viktor Alexander Kolbig, Botanicus Interacticus transforms flowers and leaves into an organic interface between human and machine. The team at Disney developed Touché, a program that utilizes Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing. Through the technology, touch sensors can monitor a broad range of electrical frequencies, similar the process found in smartphones or gestural video games. Depending on where the plant is bumped, pushed, or pulled, different sounds can be created, or actions such as flipping pages or scrolling can be completed on the screen. Each plant and type of body tissue touching it has a unique composition and electrical profile, making every interaction specific and personal.
“Computing is rapidly fusing with our dwelling places and, thanks to touchpads and Microsoft Kinect, interaction with computers is increasingly tactile and gestural,” said Ivan Poupyrev, a leading engineer at Disney Research. “Still, this interaction is limited to computing devices. We wondered — what if a broad variety of everyday objects around us could interact with us?”
The team demonstrated a garden of real and synthetic interactive plants at the Siggraph Emerging Technology expo on Monday of this week. As the future of electronics trends towards making devices smaller and more embedded in our everyday lives, programs like Touché may become the basis for how we connect with our gadgets.