NFC \’Florabots\’ in Play at Taiwan\’s Flora Exhibition

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In unveiling Android 2.3 this week, Google was very keen on promoting how the latest version of their mobile operating system enables near field communications (NFC) technology. What\’s personally striking is that I\’ve seen that \”new\” technology first hand during a recent trip to Taiwan, where it is already widely used by for everyday tasks.

According to WhatIs, NFC is defined as , \”a short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices when they\’re touched together, or brought within a few centimeters of each other.\”

While I tend to think of it as Bluetooth\’s first cousin, the Taiwanese think of it as a way to pay bills and cab fare by simply tapping their smartphone against a sensor.

Cabs in Boston only recently installed credit card readers, which goes to show just how far ahead Taipei and Taiwan are in terms of mobile technology.

Now, there are two main reasons for the Taiwanese tech advancement:

  1. The region has made considerable effort in IT investments, aided by its location in the geographical center between Japan (home to Sony, Panasonic and others), South Korea (home to Samsung, LG and others), and China (technology manufacturing hub).
  2. Developing or recent developed areas (like Taiwan) tend to embrace the latest technologies as they develop infrastructure, completely skipping older tech. After all, there is no need for a developing nation to install telephone wires; they can begin by laying fiber optics.In developed nations like the United States, new technologies often butt against older infrastructure and entrenched interests, which will too often fight to stave off any competition that threatens business.

Taipei Flora Expo

The Taipei Flora Expo exemplified Taiwan\’s commitment to technology. Dubbed \”The Greatest Flower Show on Earth\” by organizers, the Flora Expo is essentially the World\’s Fair of flowers, travelling from city to city for multi-month stints, providing the host an opportunity to promote its culture.

For Taipei, that includes technology, which was on proud display in the Pavilion of Dreams. Dreams is the most popular of the five pavilions, with only a small percentage of attendees getting the chance to enter (they have to enter a queue days in advance for an assigned time, my excellent and courteous trip organizers at the Taiwan External Trade Development Council? arranged for my group to cut everyone in line!).

The Pavilion of Dreams features interactive technology, designed to simulate \”the aural and tactile sensations of flowers as they bloom, drop and dance, and of butterflies as they fit through the air,\” according to my Expo map.

Technologies of note include paper-thin speakers in the shape of leaves, the world\’s largest vertical 3D display (no glasses needed), and what I found most interesting, the Asus robot flowers, dubbed Florabots by the company.

The Florabot bouquet consists of 438 separate robot flowers that \”dance\” or bounce and light up to music. They also feature motion and sound detection technology, coupled with artificial intelligence to react to passersby.? It\’s similar to a chain reaction, where one flower \”wakes up,\” thereby disturbing the flowers around it, which can then wake up or continue to rest.

I quizzed an Asus rep about the real-world use of the technology, which Asus spent more than a year developing and countless dollars maintaining (attendees often try to pick them, I guess), and she replied that there really wasn?t any. The Florabots are simply an outlet for engineer creativity.

With that in mind, Google has yet to announce plans to incorporate Florabot technology into the next Android version.

If you are in Taiwan, I encourage you to check it out, along with the cab NFC sensors. The Taipei International Flora Exposition is happening now through April 25, 2011.



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