A professor and his students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) took part in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge. The team won third place in the “mind” category with their “Potalk” invention; a potted plant that can increase interaction between people.
NCTU says, the theme of the contest is “using happiness to optimize longevity.” As nowadays people often have poor relations with the elder members of the family, Professor Yang Bing-Shiang and his students, who are Tung Hsin-i, Chen Yu-jung, Hao Yu-hsiang, Huang Po-hsuan, Chen Yu-cheng and Wu Chao-che, researched and developed the Potalk potted plant. The plant has a sensor and reminder lights. When the plant detects the sound of conversation within the environment, it will store energy and after the stored energy reaches a certain amount, it will automatically release stored water and nutrients at an appropriate time according the characteristics and needs of the plant.
If it detects no sound of voices for a long period of time, the reminder lights will start to flicker, to remind people that it is time to chat with others around you, thereby increasing interaction between family members.
Huang says, in order to find out the needs of the elderly, the team members went to Hsinchu’s Eighteen Peak Mountain, traditional markets and many other places, where the elderly are concentrated, for research. One elderly person asked them, “I only live with a dog. Does speaking to a dog also count as a conversation?” Another asked, “Do quarrels count as communication?”
(Liberty Times, translated by Ethan Zhan)