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Poems for Plants: playful interactions with houseplants

Aim

Poems for Plants is a concept design for a voice interactive watering artefact for houseplants. Poems for Plants aims to enhance the relationship between people and houseplants over time by sharing a meaningful experience together. This project enhances the performative task of watering houseplants as people read poetry to their plant as part of the watering process. This shared experience aims to foster curiosity, playfulness and care for houseplants while allowing for a new perspective on the relationship between people and houseplants.  

Role

Concept development

Research

Prototyping

User testing

Time

6 Weeks (2020)

Motivation

The motivation behind this project is to give agency to houseplants and allow them to have active role in people-plant interaction, rather than a being a passive object. I was inspired by the slow process of plants and wanted to explore ways to reflection this through the slow and gentle interactions that utilise technology to subtly enhance an experience rather than simply replace a task. 

Tools

Arduino

Edge Impulse

Collaboration

Benjamin Maus

Valeria Iezzi

The Concept

Poems for Plants is a concept design for a voice interactive watering artefact for houseplants. It responds to the user's voice when reading poetry, communicates the plant's needs and visualises the slow watering process. Poems for Plants aims to create a new type of relationship over time between the user and houseplants by enhancing the experience of watering.

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Why Plants? Why Poems?

Research within plant therapy show that plants can increase the overall wellness in people by reducing stress and anxiety, while increasing presence by encouraging people to slow down and focus. Similar to caring for plants, reading poetry allows people to slow down and provides a space for self-reflection. While on the plant's perspective, the sound of a person's voice can help them grow. Poems for Plants aims to combine these benefits to create a meaningful experience that benefits both the person and the plant.

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Design process

01 Research and Ideation
02 Prototyping 
03 Experience Evaluation 

Mapping the existing relationship between people and houseplants. Sketching and bodystorming ideas of new forms of people-plant interactions. 

Prototyping ideas and experimenting with Arduino, voice recognition technology and plant watering methods.

Testing and evaluating the experience of using Poems for Plants for both the person and the plant.

Prototyping

Poems for Plants uses the principle of capillary to water the plant. This principle was testing with a water vessel, microfibre cloth and a range of plant types to find out how long the watering process took and how much water was needed for the different plants. We also experimented with electronics including a soil moisture sensor, peristaltic pump and an Arduino Sense BLE in order to read the plant’s water needs and programme a gentle flow of water to be released.

 

For the voice recognition, we experimented with training an online machine learning platform, Edge Impulse, to learn a selection of words from poems by Emily Dickinson in order to find out which words the platform was most responsive in order to activate the pump. 

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Experience

In order to test and evaluation the experience of Poems for Plants, an experience prototype was implemented with both human and plant participants. The prototypes focused on the experience of reading poetry to houseplants as a ritual when watering them to find out how the person related to the plant over time. 

 

A selection of poems by Emily Dickinson were chosen for the experience which explored the theme of our relationship with nature. A booklet was given to the participants which included the poems as well as questions to encourage reflections on the experience. After using the prototype in their own homes for a few days, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants to evaluate and gain insights on their experience.

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Insights

The experience of Poems for Plants allowed the participants to reflect upon the perspective of their houseplants and invoked a sense of curiosity of the plant’s experience and growth. The experience allowed the participants to empathise with the houseplant and create a new bond which can develop over time as the plant slowly grows. 

“It made the experience more purposeful because I was reading for the plant as well. I empathised with the plant while reading the words of the poem. It felt like a bond creation. ”

“I was more curious than usual when using Poems for Plants, to check if leaves were more shinny or perked up.” 

​​“For the person you see the difference after a few days, but not yet for the plant.. It would get more intimate for the human and plant if it was used for a longer time.”

How does it work?

Step 01

The person asks the plant which poem it would like to be read by placing the moisture sensor in the plant's soil. The moisture sensor reads how the level of moisture in the soil.

Step 02

The moisture sensor sends the value to the Arduino which activates the pump to release a certain number of bubbles depending on how much water the plant needs. The number of bubbles indicates which poem should be read from the book.

Step 03

The person reads the chosen poem to the plant to start the watering process. The Arduino uses trained voice recognition software to respond to certain words from the poem and activate the pump. The pump slowly releases the appropriate amount of water through a tube to the base of the plant

Step 04

The fabric base of the plant soaks up the water visualising the watering process as the material becomes wet.

Step 05

The plant uses capillary action to bring water up the roots and stems to the rest of the plant.

Step 06

Once enough water has reached the plant's soil, the soil moisture sensor activates the pump to release a bubble into the water vessel. This signals to the person that the water process is complete.

What's inside?

The base of Poems for Plants contains an Arduino Sense BLE, peristaltic pump, plastic tubes and an isolated base for the plant with microfibre cloth. The soil moisture sensor, water vessel and plant are place on top of the box.

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