Since last Saturday, my small, potted ivy has been announcing it’s watering needs on Twitter.
It’s wonderfully futuristic. Though I’ve long yearned to be more green, I’ve proven inept enough to let one bonsai tree, one potted evergreen, and three basil plants go to ruin on my windowsill. This advanced technological intervention puts the latest house plant online where I can understand it. As a social media professional, I am more attuned to social gardening than real-world horticulture.
The hardware for my Twitter-enabled plant comes from botincalls, an NYU ITP project that was enshrined in MoMA’s Collection for the Talk to Me exhibit. The kit came into my life as a birthday present from AC Gears down the street. I’ve been staring at it for nearly a year now, and someone caught the hint.
The botanicalls hardware is not ready-out-of-the-box. To get it jamming, I resuscitated my college soldering skills and carefully wired it up over a few evenings.
The original botanicalls kit was first developed in 2009. The latest code on botanicalls.com dates from June 2011. So while the kit will get online and tweet by simply soldering it up and plugging it in, adjusting the botanicall to tweet to a custom Twitter handle and add personal messages takes some advanced finessing. I spent at least four hours tweaking code and updating Arduino libraries to get the thing working on @zacks_ivy.
The most important things to add to your botanicall are a custom handle, and personalized Tweets that actually mention your personal handle for watering requests and thank your. The botanicalls code comes with set messages that I felt were a little too mechanized. So I’ve recast the ivy’s tone to be more bro. Perhaps it’s a holdover from all the lax guys who lived down the hall from me at Brown.
There’s something so charming about having your plant communicate simply and relatably on Twitter. As an exercise in the not-yet-arrived “Internet of Things” revolution, I am heartened to imagine a world in which interpersonal communications are shifted into the larger environment. Our homes are a sensible place to begin, with appliances, area air quality and yes, dependent plants and animals connected with light communications devices.
But we are still far from that moment. The current cost of the botanicalls kit, in expertise, execution, and the expense of the parts, ensures that many of who might find a tweeting plant enchanting will not attempt to create one themselves.
We’re still in need of the first Apple-simple, ready-to-go, GUI-wrapped internet of things module to blow open this “web 3.0.” In this, the Twine project and the Air Quality Egg seem most likely to set the stage. But where Twine works simply and easily, it currently lacks a clear use. The Air Quality Egg is just the opposite. It’s single use is quite clear and compelling, but will it’s operation be simple enough to reach the mainstream?
Let’s set up the following culture test: in order for the Internet of Things to truly arrive, it will need to be as ready-to-use by readers of Home & Garden as Wired.
Until then, my plant will be tweeting. If only I could water him with an @ reply…