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Why You Should Care About a Plant on Twitter

If Twitter users could take care of a rose, perhaps they could also help take care of people, says Jeff McCloud of Ximedica, whose colleague Joe Gordon is speaking at MD&M East.

Jeff McCloud, Ximedica

Save the Rose
Twitter users get to manage the care of a plant through the a "critical design" art installation. (Image courtesy of Save the Rose)

Save the Rose has captured my attention. In this "critical design" art installation, the twitterverse determines the life or death of a rose. This rose isn't special or meaningful to anyone, but thousands of people have come to support it. Twitter users can tweet #savetherose or #shineontherose to manage the care of the plant. The water saturation is displayed using a bar graph so that users know what the rose needs.

What captured my attention is how this online installation embodies connected health. Sure, it's the health of a flower, but it is health all-the-same. The rose effectively shows how social media can support the health of the needy. I can imagine an anonymous patient getting social support, medication reminders, or patient monitoring from Internet strangers. No protected health information needs to be shared to leverage the power of social media around the world. This is a good example that if you give the Internet a select set of options it can do really well. Asking open-ended questions: you get Boaty McBoatface--the recent fiasco over the naming of a $300 million British research vessel. 

About Save the Rose
(Image courtesy of Save the Rose)

The technical portion is also very interesting. The artist uses an Arduino board to monitor the soil moisture and a Raspberry Pi mini computer to connect the actuators to Twitter. This is very thoughtfully done. 

(See McCloud's Ximedica colleague Joe Gordon discuss consumer technology transfer and innovation at MD&M East, June 14-16 in New York City.) 

If the rose were capable of understanding, it would no doubt appreciate the collective diligence of the Internet. There are things that can be more meaningful with humans in the loop. Not only because the human touch can be more significant than that of a machine, but also because of the emotional impact on those receiving care.

Certainly the new rise of chat-bots from Facebook and the like will make the ability to tell if you are interacting with a machine or human more murky. For now, this is mostlyhumans.  It's easy to get bogged down in the troll comments and lose faith in the goodness of humanity. We need more inspiration like this in the connected health world.

(See McCloud's Ximedica colleague Joe Gordon discuss consumer technology transfer and innovation at MD&M East, June 14-16 in New York City.) 

Jeff McCloud is an interaction designer at Ximedica (Providence, RI).

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