Of talking plants (and paperclips) [study]

Microsoft – the company that created ‘Clippit’ (a.k.a. ‘Clippy’) the conversational paperclip, is continuing its research into non-human communication – with a project that encourages talking with plants.

“If plants could talk to us, what would they say? Equally important how might they respond to us if we could converse with them?”

– asked a 2017 research report from Microsoft – regarding their project named ‘Florence’.

“When you visit Project Florence, you begin by typing a message to it on a Microsoft Surface tablet that is connected to the plant ecosystem. What you type is then sent to a cloud service hosted in Azure, which uses Natural Language Processing to examine the sentiment and the sentence structure, and this is then translated into stimuli (in this case: different light frequencies and durations) that the plant can understand and react to. […]

Florence then ‘replies’ to you with a sentence or two provided by the Azure cloud service, using sample words and phrases collected from Twitter that are of a similar context to your message and possibly found in botanical and/or environmental contexts.”

Florence, says the research team, has built-in personality traits too :

“Florence can be quite cranky and unpleasant if she is too dry or does not care for your input.”

See: Project Florence: A Plant to Human Experience published in : 2017 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Coming soon: Turning plants into cyborgs

Research research by Martin Gardiner