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Your plant just called to say 'I'm thirsty!'

New York University postgraduate students are developing a system that lets over-watered or dry plants phone for help.Photos: Plants phone home
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor
Imagine answering your cell phone to hear your Scotch Moss plant telling you in a fake Glaswegian accent that it needs a drink.

This scenario is not far from reality, as a group of postgraduate students at New York University is developing a way for over-watered or dry plants to phone for help.

The "Botanicalls" project uses moisture sensors placed in the soil that can send a signal over a wireless network to a gateway that places a call if the plant's too dry or wet.

Photos: Plants phone home

Recorded voices are assigned to each plant to match its biological characteristics and to help increase the charm of the phone message and give plants their own personality.

Interactive communications student Rebecca Bray, who developed the concept with three colleagues, said the technology wasn't new. It's the way of communicating by voice and adding personality to the plants that's different.

"They will call and tell you they are thirsty and need a lot of water. They are also really polite," Bray told Reuters.

"We wanted to make sure that you weren't just getting phone calls that were really needy. So we have them calling you back when you've watered them to say thank you for watering me."

For example, the Scots Moss is given a fake Scottish accent as, despite its name, it was not originally from Scotland. A prolific spider plant has a cheerful, friendly voice.

"We wanted to provide a system so that the plants could actually survive by communicating to people," said Bray who developed the system with Rob Faludi, Kati London and Kate Hartman.

She said the team was surprised by how many people have approached them to acquire this service for homes and businesses, but didn't expect the system to become available commercially for at least another six months.

"We hope that the system will help people learn how to take better care of their plants over time," Bray said, "and maybe not even need the phone calls after a while."

Story Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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