Wi-Fi flowers sprouting across U.S.

Inspired by a set of giant flowers originally built for Burning Man, an art project commissioned by Toyota is touring the U.S., providing free Wi-Fi and power outlets in public spaces.

Poetic Kinetics' Wi-Fi flowers Daniel Terdiman/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--A pair of Los Angeles artists have teamed up with Toyota on an unusually functional art project: a set of large, colorful flowers that have been providing free Wi-Fi and power outlets in public places around the country.

Currently on display in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens, the flowers--the creation of a company called Poetic Kinetics and its principals, Patrick Shearn and Cynthia Washburn--are part of a campaign for Toyota's newest generation Prius.

Brightly colored by day and lit up with LEDs at night, the flowers have been on tour around the country for several weeks. According to John Lisko, the executive communications director for Saatchi & Saatchi, Toyota's ad agency on the project, the flowers have gone through Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, and will shortly be departing for Los Angeles.

Inspired, at least in part, by a set of giant, mobile flowers Shearn built for Burning Man in 2005 and 2006, Toyota commissioned the project to reflect the theme of the new Prius: Harmony between man, nature, and machine.

The Wi-Fi flowers are lit up at night. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Run on solar power, the flowers pull in an Internet signal via a 3G network, explained Washburn, and then convert it to Wi-Fi, which covers a radius of about 200 feet around each flower.

For now, the project is no more than temporary art. But Lisko said that Toyota is "thinking through" the possibility of providing permanent versions, particularly because, he said, the public feedback has been so strongly positive.

Designed for Burning Man 2005 and 2006, these two art cars, a flower and a venus fly trap, were among the most popular pieces at Burning Man. Poetic Kinetics

 

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