A UQ student project exploring emotional links between humans and computers has turned into a major Facebook hit.
UQ Interaction Design student Bashkim Isai’s project links Facebook users to a real garden called “Meet Eater” located at The Edge, a digital culture centre at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Meet Eater is watered when people become its fan on Facebook, when people write on its wall and when people physically interact with it.
Every time a fan writes on Meet Eater’s Facebook wall, a measured amount of water is fed to the plants from an automated water system.
Mr Isai said that the project was based on the idea that by introducing both physical and virtual levels of interaction, the Meet Eater garden would be able to make the transition from being an object to a creature.
“Meet Eater relies on its Facebook fans to keep it alive - the better the quality of conversations and posts left for Meet Eater, the more likely the garden is to respond,” Mr Isai said.
Meet Eater also reacts to physical interaction that it receives.
When people stroke the garden, it ‘purrs’ and croons with affection.
When left idle for a too long, it weeps to gain the attention of passers by.
Mr Isai’s project has been going for more than two months and received a huge spike in fans about two weeks ago when media interest in the project increased.
“My fan base rose from 900 to 4500 within five days and since then, I have been contacted by news agencies in 15 different countries such as the United States, Spain and Israel – all keen to know about Meet Eater,” Mr Isai said.
“I am very pleased with the increased number of posts, but it is interesting that since Meet Eater became ‘famous’ the quality of posts and conversations has decreased.
“People used to ask meaningful questions and had great conversations with Meet Eater, but now it seems there are many more generic posts,” he said.
The Meet Eater project is exploring the notion of “affectionate computing”, a topic in Interaction Design and ICT where artefacts are augmented with moods, and respond to our own moods.
“I envisage a future where computing has more meaning in our lives, where we do not hunch over a PC in order to realise the power of the Internet,"Mr Isai said.
“Instead knowledge is afforded through interaction with tangible media providing a more satisfying result.
“The Meet Eater aims to be step forward towards this interaction paradigm - let’s see if we get there!”
To become a fan of this project, add “Meet Eater” to your Facebook and watch the garden grow.
Media: Ms Izzy Koh, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (07 3346 7696 or firstname.lastname@example.org)