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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Digital flower keeps tabs on love
Cian Cullinan, research at Media Labs
The flower opens when Cian's girlfriend logs on
Technology is enabling us to keep in touch with each other far more easily but it is not often aesthetically pleasing.

At the Human Connectedness Group at The Media Labs Europe in Dublin researchers are determined to change that.

Cian Cullinan has come up with a eye-pleasing way to keep in touch with his girlfriend Ciara, via a fake potted plant that opens up into a beautiful flower when she logs on to her computer.

"I wanted to build something that gave a sense of physical presence, he said.

"A real thing in the real world that gives me a rough idea of where she is and what she is doing."

Synchronised love

Workings of the virtual potted plant
Underneath the pot the flower is not so pretty
When the flower opens up, it triggers thoughts of Ciara and consequently strengthens the relationship, said Mr Cullinan.

"It has changed how we use e-mail and the phone and we are a lot more synchronised now," he said.

The plant has a wireless connection to Mr Cullinan's computer which in turn to connected to his girlfriend's computer.

The flower closes when his girlfriend logs off from her computer.

So far she has nothing on her desk to represent her boyfriend's movements, although if he developed something it would be likely to be "something more boyish than a pink flower", Mr Cullinan told the BBC's Go Digital radio programme.

Flower power

The idea of having the complicated communication systems that allow us to keep in touch with friends and family represented in the physical world is gaining ground.

BTexact's relationship minder
The flower wilts if relationships are not maintained
Last year BT's research wing BTexact came up with a digital flower on which each stem represented selected individuals.

The stem drooped if that relationship was neglected but when the individual was contacted electronically, the flower grew more upright.

The buds of the flower lit up when a call was received from a friend or when the service had something to report.

"The success of internet-based search engines that help reunite old friends and family shows that people want to maintain remote friendships, but with today's hectic lifestyles these relationships are often neglected," said Matt Lawson, Head of BTexact's multimedia lab.

"Our relationship minder allows the user to programme the interface to offer a gentle reminder when a relationship is in need of contact," he added.




SEE ALSO:
Computers that watch while you work
08 Apr 03  |  Technology
E-mail bullying on the rise
31 Mar 03  |  Technology
Website 'brings families together'
30 Mar 03  |  Scotland
E-mail lifeline for war relatives
29 Mar 03  |  Technology


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