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Queen Mary student creates ‘Flower Pot Men’ of the future

A PhD student from the Media and Arts Technology Programme at Queen Mary, University of London has created a series of talking plants to help educate local people about the flora around them.

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Sara Heitlinger uses Oyster card technology - wireless radio-frequency technology known as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) - to make the plants talk. Each plant is labelled with a unique computer chip that is picked up by a reader hidden inside a watering can and a short audio sample is played as result of the chip and reader coming into close contact.

The audio samples are crowd-sourced by regular volunteers at Spitalfields City Farm and contain interesting medicinal facts about the specific plants.

On Sunday 14 July, visitors to Spitalfields City Farm in Tower Hamlets will have the chance to buy plants including herbs and bee-friendly wildflowers, at the annual Strawberry and Honey Fayre.  

Commenting on the project, interactive artist and researcher Sara Heitlinger said: “I hope to understand how interactive technologies can support urban agricultural communities. I am interested in developing new computing systems for a more socially and environmentally sustainable society.”

Sara added: “We are looking at innovative ways that technology can support small-scale urban food production at Spitalfields City Farm by focusing on education and opportunities for people to engage in shared activities. Future plans include richer crowd-sourced content, such as practical growing advice as well as cultural knowledge of recipes and plant remedies.”

Find out more about the Talking Plants project.

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