We were delighted to follow the Mars Phoenix Lander Twitter feed, even though we knew that the data collected from Mars was interpreted by NASA before it was sent to Twitter. We also got used to automatic feeds that post articles and blog posts from elsewhere on the internet. Now some enterprising folks have taken the automatic Tweet to new and decidedly strange places.
From the Toilet
The hacklabTOilet in Toronto has a Twitter feed. Yes, a toilet. Hacklab is a site for hackers in Toronto with a "a strong disdain for twitter" and an urge to wire things to the internet. Right now, the toilet Tweets when it is flushed. Future ideas include an air quality monitor and sensors for water pressure and flow, humidity and temperature, and to monitor whether the seat is up or down. Still, there's something about a toilet with wires hooked to it that makes me uneasy.
Cats Tweet, Too
Kimberly Nixon's cats Gus and Penny have their own Twitter account. These cats do not blog through their owners, though. They post automatically every time they leave the house or return home. Gus and Penny use a cat door that requires ID to use, meaning it is tripped by the RFID tags on their collars. This keeps the neighborhood riffraff out. When the door is opened, a webcam takes a picture and posts the information to Twitter.
Instructable user bpunkt also has a cat who Tweets. Zooooey has a sensor in her bed that updates and posts a picture when she lays down for a nap or gets out of bed. You can make your cat a bed/sensor/webcam/computer setup with these instructions.
From the Office Chair
Now what would an office chair have to share on Twitter? Randy Sarafan outfitted his office chair with a gas detection sensor, then programmed it to publish updates on Twitter whenever a fart is detected! Office Chair now has 3,615 followers on Twitter. Here is a sample of the results:
# I wish I were some other chair about 15 hours ago from web # He farted right on me again about 17 hours ago from web # allow me to repeat"¦ ppppfffffffffftttttttttttt about 18 hours ago from web # Ugh. That was a gross one about 18 hours ago from web
Sarafan posted the process at Instructables, so you can replicate his experiment. Just remember, the world has only so much tolerance for Tweeting chairs.
Botanicalls Kits are interfaces you can buy to wire your favorite houseplant to Twitter. First, you have to put it all together yourself. Then, stick one end into the pot, the other end into your computer, and wait for your plant to communicate. What you'll get will not be intellectual discourse (certainly not in the 140 character limit) but you'll find out what's important to the plant. It will tell you when it needs water or has too much water. Yes, the gadget is a humidity monitor. If you don't have a houseplant, you can follow someone else's plant on Twitter, such as this tomato plant in Boston.
Direct from the Brain
Adam Wilson only Tweeted one message in this strange manner, but it was an important one: "using EEG to send tweet," pretty much said it all. Wilson, a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, didn't type the words or say the words. They were picked up, one letter at a time, by a brain interface that detected electrical activity and translated it into text. The research is aimed to benefit people with Locked-In Syndrome, whose greatest concern is communicating with those around them.
Tweets are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them. "So someone could simply tell family and friends how they're feeling today," says Williams. "People at the other end can be following their thread and never know that the person is disabled. That would really be an enabling type of communication means for those people, and I think it would make them feel, in the online world, that they're not that much different from everybody else. That's why we did these things."
That seems to be the best possible use of Twitter ever.
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