A Tele-Robotic Garden on the World Wide Web
August 27, 2018 4:18 PM   Subscribe

"A robot as gardener, a flower bed as international meeting place in the World Wide Web. You can control a robotic arm via WWW in order to observe and tend the garden. Sow and water the plants, or simply get together in the Chat Channel with other telegardeners from all over the world."

In 1995, artist Ken Goldberg and a small team of collaborators outfitted an industrial robotic arm with pneumatic watering and seed planting actuators, lights and web camera, and gave the nascent web free reign in a 6-foot-diameter plot of land called the TeleGarden.
From: Jan Gruenert alias JanGruen -@cip.physik.uni-wuerzburg.de
Date: Tue Sep 12 17:40:00 1995
I'm so happy I found this wonderful garden - this way I can do something together with my girl-friend every day. The reason why this is so important is that we are currently separated by a whole ocean: she studies in Louisiana and I study in Germany. Thank you for this project and I hope I will have a strong young flox plant soon for us.
In its first year more than 9,000 members signed up to plant marigolds, radishes, flax and phlox. Users were required to log in at least once a week to maintain an account. They could only plant a seed after being a member for one week and accruing 100 "hits" -- e.g. making a request to water or move the arm, or making a post in the "Village Square" chat room. Planting a second seed required two weeks membership and 500 hits, a third three weeks and 1,000 hits.
From: Cork Kyle alias CorkKyle -@frugal.com
Date: Mon Oct 2 01:23:10 1995
I may have committed the first tele-murder. I planted a seed on top of a bug. He got mooshed. Poor bug. I didn't know...I was just trying to scare him.

From: serial30.vli.ca
Date: Sat Sep 16 06:32:32 1995
I would like this media to be use for sexe user the potential is of no precedent. For financing call me. 1-770-5829 Charles Turpin.
The project became, for its time, hugely popular, with hundreds of members interacting every month in the chat room. While there was some discussion of nature and the plants (e.g. members would would work together to strategically plant seeds next to each other), the vast majority of users’ discussion focused on the TeleGarden community and social life outside of it. There were almost zero trolls. Over a three month period about a year into the project, only 21 comments out of 16,504 postings were abusive (with 20 of them coming from a single user.)
From: James Marks alias JamesMar -@jaguar.csc.wsu.edu
Date: Tue Sep 19 21:35:59 1995
What about the nasties chewing on the leaves in M16? Is there any way you can hook us up with a bug terminator? Jim (p.s. This place is a stone groove, a neo-slacker's Zen paridise on the web! Thank's for putting it up!).
The New York Times reported the garden suffered a number of setbacks in its first year, including computer failures and a user error that flooded out the entire garden. (It also required at least a little outside maintenance.) But thanks to its overall success, organizers moved the garden -- which was originally slated to stay up for one year -- from California to the Ars Electronica Center in Austria in 1966. It remained online until August 2004.
From: Cheri Franke alias CheriFra -@telegroup.com
Date: Wed May 29 07:13:02 1996
I have rally enjoyed this project. I'veplanted three seeds and I'm not sure if any of them have sprouted but the process of planting, watering and watching has been fun. I must say though that the best part has been the chat. I think that the "garden atmosphere" has in some way made it special. It's sort of like hanging over the back fence, chatting with the neighbors. Thanks. This has introduced me to a lot of interesting people.
via Futility Closet
posted by not_the_water (5 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

I'm at a total loss as to how I have never heard about this until now. There really wasn't that much online in 1995 and over 9000 would have been huge. This Internet thing is rather cool.
posted by Revvy at 1:14 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I signed up for this. It was mind-blowingly incredible.

I loved the notes that came with it that said 'don't zoom in too far, as you may actually crush a flower'. The whole idea of interfacing to a real, physical object over the web was such a novelty; doubly-so the timeshared and consensual nature of multiple people controlling (fighting over) the use of a resource at the same time.
posted by davemee at 4:31 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is great; thank you for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2018

Someone should reboot this idea. Twitch Gardens, perhaps?
posted by entity447b at 5:40 AM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

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