The jury may still be out on the legendary Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose's assertion that plants do "feel pain" and even "understand affection," but through a new system developed by a group of university students in New York, a 'thirsty' plant can now call the owner on the cellphone and ask for help.
In fact, a person too can call the plant from his phone and know if it needs watering.
The project 'Botanicalls' developed by a team of students at New York University opens a new channel of communication between plants and humans, to promote successful inter-species cohabitation and understanding, say its developers.
"What we are trying to explore in this project is how plants and people can relate on a more personal level. We have applied technology as an assistive tool to open up the channels of communication," team leader Kati London said from New York.
This is how the system works — Each plant has a micro-controller embedded in it with a separate identification number, and when a plant's soil goes dry, the whole system gets activated, and the particular plant can place a phone call to its owner and ask for support.
According to London, the team-members made a conscious decision to use voice as opposed to text (i.e. e-mail or SMS) as the main form of communication between plants and people because of its inherently personal nature.
London says the project could be tailored for commercial or educational applications, but it may take some time before everybody understands the system.