New Tech Turns Your House Plant Into A Touch Controller

It’s happened to the best of us. You’re all settled into the couch with a snack and a blanket, ready to watch the newest episode of your favorite TV show. And then you realize the remote control is on the other side of the room. For a brief moment, we wish for Inspector Gadget arms, and then heave ourselves up to retrieve the rogue controller. If only there were an easier way…

New developments from Disney Research reveal that soon, controlling our electronics may be as simple as touching a nearby house plant, or better yet, a part of your own body. The Pittsburgh-based arm of the entertainment giant is working on a new system called Touché that some say will do away with touch screen electronics.

botanicus interactus controller

Image via Disney Research

Officially, Touché uses something called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique. It works by using a sensing circuit to monitor how the electrical signal passing through an object changes when touched by a conductive material — like a human finger. “In our explorations we added complex touch and gesture sensitivity not only to computing devices and everyday objects, but also to the human body and liquids,” write the developers. “Importantly, instrumenting objects and material with touch sensitivity is easy and straightforward: a single wire is sufficient to make objects and environments touch and gesture sensitive.”

When implemented into a common house plant (living or artificial), the technology assumes the name Botanicus Interactus. Its machine-learning algorithms allow it to associate particular changes in particular frequencies with finger touches to different parts of the plant. It’s easy to see how plants, doorknobs, and picture frames equipped with this technology would fit right into remote-controlled houses of the future.

According to Gizmag, a garden of plants utilizing the technology is currently on display at the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technology conference in Los Angeles.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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