On 23-24 March, Shauna Concannon, Katja Knecht, Sophie McDonald and Pollie Barden from the Media Art and Technology PhD programme, and Dmitrijs Milajevs from the Theory Group, in the School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science, teamed up to participate in the Symposium and Hackathon in Social Media and Interaction at Cambridge University and organised by Swansea University.
It was an inspiring and fun event, with keynote speakers including Yvonne Rogers from UCL, UK, Anirudha Joshi from IIT Bombay, India, and Jon Froehlich from University of Maryland, USA.
We spent 2 days hacking away, competing with 3 other teams from universities around the UK. We are excited to announce we won first prize, the prizes for which were a garden gnome, and and and… return flight tickets to visit Anirudha Joshi and his research lab at IIT in Mumbai, India!!!!! Whooop!!!!!!!
The theme of the hack event was to promote sustainability, resilience and growth of local groups and communities through the use of social media. Each team was given a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino microcontroller, along with a range of inputs, outputs, sensors and displays, as well as a whole range of different plants to choose from.
The brief was to use these components to develop a system that encourages people in a shared space to achieve a common goal, such as raising awareness or changing behaviour. The interactions should aim to build up the community encountering the plant+system, enhancing its sustainability, resilience and growth.
WHAT WE DID
“Planticipation” is a networked communal watering system and sound art installation designed to be situated throughout a London residential tower block, with a lobby or foyer area which we would be convert into a communal indoor garden. The system aims to promote social connections via plant life, as well as to create a space for shared responsibility and action, while improving the built living environment.
Each plant in the communal garden is paired with a plant that lives in one of the residents homes. When a resident waters their plant it triggers a water pump by a paired plant in the communal garden to turn on and water it. Likewise, if someone is on holiday, or shares plants with people in the block, watering a plant in the communal garden will water it’s paired plant in it’s resident’s home. Taking care of one’s own apartment plants would be reflected aurally as well as physically in the shared space by triggering a sound linked to that specific plant. The individual nature, qualities and characteristics of different plants would not only be reflected in their aural identity. When more than one resident waters their plant the garden becomes a beautiful soundscape. The plants also communicate with residents by tweeting stories and information about their life and needs, in order to help support and entertain inexperienced as well as experienced gardeners.
We designed the system to be as sustainable as possible by making the water pump out of recycled materials and providing the residents with an instruction manual for building the system themselves. This way they can make as many water pumps and water sensors as they have plants and residents, and can even skills share with other communities beyond their own block.
With more people living in cities than ever before, access to gardens and green spaces are becoming scarce, and privileges for the elite, but the evidence of the importance of nature in our health and wellbeing is well established. This project is aimed at improving the quality of urban experience for everybody by introducing an integrated and interactive experience with a green environment. Furthermore, this system aims to create an opportunity for a community to develop through a shared interest and joint venture. We aimed to develop a system that is as sustainably as possible by using materials and the residential building that already exist, and providing the tools for communities to expand beyond the initial installation.
HOW IT WORKS
The Watering System: Plant pots in each location are fitted with a capacitive sensor, that measures how moist the soil is in the pots, and a water pump positioned over the soil. We used an Arduino to read the value of the capacitive sensor in one plant pot, that in turn triggered a motor that powered the water pump on the paired plant.
The Sound System: This used a MakeyMakey wired up to each plant, which was triggered by the watering of the plants. When the plants in the communal space were watered a corresponding sound file would be triggered.
The Tweets: The tweets were triggered by a light sensor or the soil moisture levels. The light sensor was used to trigger bedtime story tweets aimed at kids, and the soil sensor was used to trigger messages from the plants that needed some attention from residents, by requesting water.
The event was generously sponsored by the Sustainable Society Network+. For further information on the symposium and hack challenge please visit: http://www.planthack.org/
Written by: Sophie McDonald