Experiment 2: Sensible Objects—Artificial Nature

Key project image


Project Description

Artificial Nature consists of origami house plants and LEDs mimicking fireflies that sense and respond to sound and proximity in their environment. This project aims to reflect on technology as a human companion in the form of familiar and personified objects. 

The leafy arrowhead plant responds to sound volume; the grassy spider plant and all the LEDs respond to proximity. There are three states for the plants and two for the LEDs. In each state, the accelerated and growingly obvious action from the actuators responds to the increased stimuli in the environment. 

In the idle state, there’s no sound or proximity trigger, and both plants, attached to servos, spin at a slow and consistent rate. The yellow LEDs arranged by the plants fade on and off at different “breathing” rates to mimic fireflies. 

In the first triggered state, the leafy arrowhead plant responds to low sounds by moving faster at a consistent rate. The grassy spider plant responds to a range of proximity values by moving to a defined position depending on how close the user is with the sensor. The yellow LEDs respond by glowing brighter in unison as the user moves closer.

In the second triggered state, the leafy arrowhead plant responds to loud sounds by moving to random positions over a large range. The grassy spider plant responds to proximity less than 3 by moving to random positions over a small range.


Calm Technology Principles

I engaged with 3 principles through this project:

I. Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention:

The actuators are small and compact; when triggered, the responses are non-disturbing.  

III. Technology should make use of the periphery:

By having 3 states, the user can choose to engage or ignore Artificial Nature at any time, having the technology “move easily from the periphery of our attention to the center, and back”, without affecting its functionality or meaning.

VI. Technology should work even when it fails:

In the case when technology fails to respond to sensors, it defaults back to the idle state not requiring any stimulus. Furthermore, In the case when technology breaks down, the amiable physical form of the piece still remains to create meaning. 


Experience Video

How It Works Video

Final Project Images

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Development Images

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Link to the Arduino code hosted on Github



Circuit Diagram