From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]




ABSTRACT : A plant growth apparatus comprises a plant pot (10) adapted
to contain soil (12) and a plant (14). Sensors (24, 26, 28, 42)
monitor the instant environment of the plant (14) and feed data to a
micro-controller (44) which compares the conditions with the ideal
growth conditions for the species of plant (14). Deviation from the
ideal is indicated via a screen (18) whereon alphanumerical remedial
actions and/or the expression of a face (20) are provided together
with spoken messages from loudspeaker (32). Controls (30) or voice
recognition via a microphone (34) can select the species of plant (14)
to be nurtured. Nurturing ideal criteria vary with growth of the plant
(14) and with the season. Interrogation of a user allows remedial
action to be taken against degenerative or pathological conditions in
the plant (14). User speech repetition is also provided.

Technical Field / Background
It is known, on a commercial basis, to automatically monitor the
growth conditions of plants and to adjust the growth conditions, again
automatically, to restore them to within acceptable bounds. It is also
known for individuals to monitor instruments such as moisture or
humidity meters and to take appropriate remedial action, based on
their expert knowledge. Neither of these approaches is appropriate for
an amateur. The present invention seeks to provide an apparatus for
growing a plant which causes an inexpert amateur to take appropriate
remedial action, and which does not require costly automatic controls,
nor a knowledge of how to read and interpret instruments.

Toys known as”Tamagochi”exist, where an electronic, fantasy creature
(with no concrete existence), makes demands upon its owner, based on
assumed conditions of nurture, and monitored by a controller. No
worthwhile new knowledge is imparted to the owner since the creature’s
requirements, and the creature itself, are the product of fantasy.

The present invention also seeks to provide an apparatus, representing
a hobby or pastime, based on real life and having real consequences,
whereby the user or owner can gain genuine knowledge.

Disclosure of Invention According to the invention there is provided
an apparatus for growing a plant as specified in claims 1 to 16.

Brief Description of Drain (vs An embodiment of the invention will now
be described. by way of example only, with reference to the
accompanying Figures, in which:- Figure 1 is a perspective view of a
preferred embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 is a cross-section of
Figure 1 along the plane defined by the broken line X-X’ as defined by
the terminal arrows; and Figure 3 is a schematic block diagram of the
entire apparatus.

Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiment Referring to Figure 1
there is shown a plant pot (10) containing soil or compost (12)
suitable for the growth of a living plant (14). The plant pot (10)
includes an outer housing (16) and an inner pot (36). The outer
housing (16) includes a display screen (18), for preference a Liquid
Crystal Display (LCD), but which can also be of any kind adaptable for
the use described. The screen (18) displays images (20) which, for
preference, present at least a pair of eyes which express a
presumed’degree of happiness’or a presumed’state of distress’relating
to the condition of the plant (14), as interpreted by measured
environmental parameters. as will later be explained.

The outer housing (16) also includes a sensor cluster housing (22)
including (see Figure 3) an atmospheric humidity sensor (24), a
temperature sensor (26) and a light level sensor (28). By these means
(24,26,28), the ambient conditions are monitored.

User controls (30) are provided on the outer housing (16) in the form
of buttons. By these means (30), as will later be described, the user
can inform and program the apparatus (10). A loudspeaker (32) is
provided on the outer housing (16), together with a microphone (34).

Figure 2 is a cross section of Figure 1 along the plane defined by the
broken line X-X’ and the terminal arrows. The inner pot (36) provides
the container for the soil (12) and the plant (14), together with
drainage means (38), if required. The outer housing (16) and the inner
pot (36) define a cavity (39) wherein an electronic assembly (40) is
housed, protected from moisture and other contaminants which may be
present in the soil (12). A moisture sensor (42) is situated in the
soil (12) and is connected to the electronic assembly (40) in such a
way as to avoid contaminant ingress into the cavity (39). The
electronic assembly (40) is additionally connected to the sensors
(24,26,28) in the sensor cluster housing (22), and also to the
loudspeaker (32), the microphone (34) and user controls (30).

Figure 3 is a schematic block diagram of the apparatus (10). The
electronic assembly (40) includes a micro-controller (44) which
receives the input from the sensors (24, 26, 28,42), from the user
controls (30), and from the microphone (34). In turn, the micro-
controller drives a speech synthesiser (46) (also part of the
electronic assembly (40)) whose output is amplified and fed to the
loudspeaker (32). In addition, the micro-controller (44) drives an LCD
driver (48) which causes the screen (18) to display a selected image.

The micro-controller (44) is coupled to a read-only memory (ROM) (50)
which contains the information required for the selection of the image
to be displayed, the synthesis details to be used by the speech
synthesiser (46), and the environmental conditions required for the
growth of the plant (14). The micro controller (t14) has an on-board
clock (not shown) which keeps track of the time of day and the passage
of days, together with the date and time in the season.

When first acquired by the user, the plant growth apparatus (10) comes
complete with a young plant (seedling) or with one or more
germinatable seeds, of a known species. The user, on first use,
employs the controls (30) to indicate that the period of growth of the
plant (14) has commenced. The micro-controller (44) consults the ROM
(50) to determine the conditions necessary at that time. The face on
the screen (18) is then adjusted to indicate the relationship between
the immediate environmental conditions that the plant (14) is
experiencing, and the acceptable conditions (within stated limits) as
defined by the ROM (50). If the date is too early in the season, the
face can look perplexed and the loudspeaker can say”It’s a bit early/
late in the year to begin, are you sure ?” The user can then desist,
or use the controls (30) to force the operation. If environmental
conditions are good, the face looks very happy and the loudspeaker
(32) says, for example”everything is fine”. If conditions are poor for
the plant, the face looks very sad or angry, and the loudspeaker (32)
indicates what the problem might be, such as “it is too dark”or”I need
water”or”it is too hot”or”it is too cold”. If things are in an
intermediate state, the face might look moderately happy or moderately
sad/angry and the loudspeaker (32) might say, for example”I’m a bit
hot”or”I’m a bit cold or”it’s a bit humid”or”I’ll need some water
soon”. If it is night-time, as defined by lack of light and/or the
clock in the micro-controller (44), the face on the screen (18) can
look asleep.

When day should have broken, as defined by the clock in the micro-
controller (44), the face on the screen (18) can become progressively
more angry, dependently upon the duration of light deprivation, and
the loudspeaker can say, for example”open the curtains, its dawn”. If
the plant (14) is subjected to artificial light during what would,
naturally, be the hours of darkness, the face can look a little sad
and the loudspeaker might say”can’t a poor plant get some sleep'”.
Upon the morning restoration of light, the sleepy face could slowly
wake up to assume its appropriate expression and the loudspeaker could
say”good morning”and/or”you might have opened the curtains”or “it’s
been very dark in here”or”everything is just great on this fine

So far the description has assumed that a known plant species is
provided with the apparatus (10). However, the user may choose to
select his own plant species. The ROM (50) is provided with
information on the ideal conditions for a plurality of plant species,
and the user can select the appropriate species by use of the controls
(30). In so selecting, the micro-controller (44) interrogates and
instructs the user by means of the loudspeaker (32) and by messages on
the screen (18). The clock in the micro-controller (44) is set for
time of day and date of year. Where appropriate, there can also be a
requirement to indicate in which area of the world the user is
situated so that sunrise and sunset times, and the appropriate season,
can be included.

As well as monitoring the environment of the plant (14), the micro-
controller (44) measures the passage of days and. using the ROM (44),
notes the expected development of the plant (14) and adjusts the
required ideal conditions, so that the needs of the plant (14) are
met. The progress from one set of ideal conditions to another can be
controlled by the apparatus interrogating the user who is required to
use the controls (30) to provide answers. For example, the loudspeaker
might ask”how many centimetres high am I now ?” or”how many leaves do
I have ?” or”do I have any flowers?”. Equally, plants require
attention of different kinds at different times. A germinating seed is
required to be enclosed within a humid housing for the earliest part
of its life. A flowering plant requires to have dead blooms removed.
All these can be accommodated by interrogation and passage from one
set of ideal conditions to another. Perennial and biennial plants go
through different phases during the seasons and between seasons and
require different treatment on subsequent years. This can be
accommodated by interrogation.

The controls (30) can also be used to diagnose other problems.
Symptoms of disease can be communicated to the micro-controller (44)
and advice given for a cure. Finally, and sadly, plant death must be
faced and the interrogation process may elicit the sad message “I’m
sorry my life is over. Thank you for looking after me”or, equally, the
reverse message if death has been caused by neglect or stupidity on
the part of the user! Any message from the loudspeaker (32) can be
displayed alphabetically on the screen (18), as can the current
readings of the sensors (24, 26, 28, 42) and the time, date, season.

The controls (30) can be used to select which form of communication is

The style of the face on the screen (18) is chosen to be appropriate
to the assumed personality of the species of plant (14). An Oriental
plant might have an oriental face, a northern plant might look like a
lumberjack or an Eskimo, and so on. Equally, the user can select the
style of face, and/or the type of voice, using the controls (30).

The apparatus, shown in Figure 1 is in the general form of a standard
European flowerpot. The exact form of the apparatus can be adapted to
reflect the type of plant (14) -a cactus having a green jagged pot, a
tree having a wood-bark effect with optional branches, and so on
according to the wish of the designer of the pot.

The microphone (34) is employed, in a first mode, simply to indicate
to the micro- controller that the user has made a sound. This means
that the user is present, and the micro-controller (44) can respond by
passing messages to the user. In a second mode, the micro-controller
(44) has a degree of speech recognition, and can repeat words, using
the synthesiser (46), via the loudspeaker (32), or recognise a range
of response words when interrogating the user. This last feature can
be used as an alternative to, or an adjunct to, the controls (30).

Variation may be made to the aforementioned embodiment (s) without
departing from the scope of the invention. For example, the apparatus
may be provided with a programmable memory instead of the read-only
memory (50) in order to enable information about uncommon plants to be
entered into the plant’s memory. This may be achieved by downloading
information to the apparatus (10) via a computer using software
supplied with the apparatus, or, for example, from a dedicated
website. Alternatively, the apparatus could be provided with
interchangeable ROMs (50) corresponding to different species of

The outer housing (16) and the inner pot (36) can be formed as a
single unit or, alternatively, the outer housing and associated
electronics and sensors etc could be provided as a separate unit for
use with a”conventional”plant pot. In this case, the moisture sensor
(42) will have to be attached to the electronic assembly (40) using a
suitable attachment means, so that it can be inserted into the
conventional plant pot by the user.




from Main articles: Computer program and Computer programming

“The defining feature of modern computers which distinguishes them
from all other machines is that they can be programmed. That is to say
that a list of instructions (the program) can be given to the computer
and it will store them and carry them out at some time in the future.

In most cases, computer instructions are simple: add one number to
another, move some data from one location to another, send a message
to some external device, etc. These instructions are read from the
computer’s memory and are generally carried out (executed) in the
order they were given. However, there are usually specialized
instructions to tell the computer to jump ahead or backwards to some
other place in the program and to carry on executing from there. These
are called “jump” instructions (or branches). Furthermore, jump
instructions may be made to happen conditionally so that different
sequences of instructions may be used depending on the result of some
previous calculation or some external event. Many computers directly
support subroutines by providing a type of jump that “remembers” the
location it jumped from and another instruction to return to the
instruction following that jump instruction.

Program execution might be likened to reading a book. While a person
will normally read each word and line in sequence, they may at times
jump back to an earlier place in the text or skip sections that are
not of interest. Similarly, a computer may sometimes go back and
repeat the instructions in some section of the program over and over
again until some internal condition is met. This is called the flow of
control within the program and it is what allows the computer to
perform tasks repeatedly without human intervention.

Comparatively, a person using a pocket calculator can perform a basic
arithmetic operation such as adding two numbers with just a few button
presses. But to add together all of the numbers from 1 to 1,000 would
take thousands of button presses and a lot of time–with a near
certainty of making a mistake. On the other hand, a computer may be
programmed to do this with just a few simple instructions. For

mov      #0,sum     ; set sum to 0
mov      #1,num     ; set num to 1
loop:   add      num,sum    ; add num to sum
add      #1,num     ; add 1 to num
cmp      num,#1000  ; compare num to 1000
ble      loop       ; if num <= 1000, go back to ‘loop’
halt                ; end of program. stop running

Once told to run this program, the computer will perform the
repetitive addition task without further human intervention. It will
almost never make a mistake and a modern PC can complete the task in
about a millionth of a second.[5]

However, computers cannot “think” for themselves in the sense that
they only solve problems in exactly the way they are programmed to. An
intelligent human faced with the above addition task might soon
realize that instead of actually adding up all the numbers one can
simply use the equation

1+2+3+…+n = {{n(n+1)} \over 2}

and arrive at the correct answer (500,500) with little work.[6] In
other words, a computer programmed to add up the numbers one by one as
in the example above would do exactly that without regard to
efficiency or alternative solutions.”

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