To care for your plant, you must care for yourself...

The Power Plant is a positive habit forming device, that helps its user by encouraging and fostering an emotional connection between the user and a plant, that acts as an effigy of the user. This plant sits in a sealed terrarium, making direct interaction with the plant difficult for the user, and as such, the user must care for the plant by sticking to the users personally set habit plan. A user can set a habit plan for a wide range of habits, from helping them form healthy sleeping patterns, as you will see in this demonstration, to personal fitness, to time management, and even eating habits.

Successfully following their positive habit plan means the plant would receive the sustenance it needs to live from the Power Plant terrarium, while failure would see the plant deprived of such necessities. However, so that the user may empathise with the plant more strongly, the negative effects will not be exclusive to the plant within the terrarium, but Internet of Things and Smart Home integration would exact these reminders to the user to stick to their habit plan, through a series of mildly annoying being had upon the user's home. These would range from light switches inverting in function, washing machines locking or turning on at inopportune times, to a drawers or doors within a user's home randomly locking or opening at significantly slower speeds.

By drawing on the users empathy to form a relationship of care with the plant, the user would find motivation to stick to their habit plans, which would therefore have the user form habits through repetition of these positive actions, in the process, caring for the plant, and caring for themselves.

Above, you can see a sketch completed by Xinkai, which illustrates the ideal form of the Power Plant at a completed state. This design shows the plant sealed within the terrarium, with the base capable of providing the sustenance needed to survive to the plant, but in turn it is also capabale of withholding this vital sustenance from your plant. The display, which appears behind the terrarium, allows the Power Plant to express its emotions, and show off its personality.

Technical Description

For the creation of the Power Plant, there were three main pieces of the design that we required to be working alongside each other to achieve our intended concept for presentation, being the Unity elements, Arduino elements, and Hardware elements.

The Unity elements, which were primarily handled by Rockie, involved a series sounds and animations that would be played through the Power Plant's display upon certain conditions being met during the exhibition interaction. These conditions would be recognised through Arduino code exporting a trigger to Unity, causing the display to show an animation that corresponds to the Power Plant's emotional reaction to the user's actions. Below is an image showing each of these emotive states.

Our second coding element, the Arduino code, was a core piece of the design that was contributed to by Rockie and Abraham, with Xinkai as the coding lead. Through Arduino, the Power Plant's prototype was able to create communication between the core elements of the user interaction. Going through them in no particular order of importance, the Arduino would read data received from an FSR Pressure sensor, and begin an internal count in seconds when constant pressure within a certain range was detected. When the pressure was released, an output that is dependant on the length of time the pressure was applied, would be sent. This would output would trigger two of the prototype's outcome criteria, a Fail state, and a Success state. The third outcome criteria, another Fail state, would be caused by an Ambient Light Sensor upon said sensor returning readings of bright ambient light. Each of these two fails states would trigger different emotive responses from the Power Plant display, but would both trigger a servo to turn 90 degrees into a "locked" state, and cause an LED that is representative of a heat lamp to turn on. The Success state would turn the servo to its nuetral position, and turn off the 'heat lamp', as well as triggering a positive reaction from the emotive display.

The final element of the prototype, the Hardware element, which you can see shown in the several pictures below in the exhibition setting, was primarily assembled by Jack, with supplies and contributions from Abraham. Beginning with the Power Plant itself, it is a 3D printed base and display case, modelled by Jack with the purpose of looking as similar as possible to the conceptual sketch created by Xinkai, which can be seen as the first image on the page. On top of the base, an upside down vase was placed to emulate the sealed terrarium, with a limb holding an LED coming up through the bottom of the base, that acted as a placebo heat lamp for interaction purposes. The FSR Pressure Sensor was placed between two Corflute panels, seperated by foam. This allowed the rather small surface space of the FSR to be expanded to something more substantial, meaning that during the interacion, the effective area of use was greatly expanded, remove the need for precision from the interacting user. This was placed in the centre of the mock bed for the installation, meaning that the user just had to sit in roughly the centre of the bed, rather than an exact position. The next element of Hardware the user would interact with, was a plastic drawer that was used as a representation of how the Internet of Things functionality of the Power Plant may be shown. This drawer had a small servo inside, that upon triggering either Fail state, would lock, making users unable to access the contents. It would be unlocked by the Success state being achieved. The last element of the physical installation, was the Ambient Light Sensor. This was place inside of a standing lamp, that the user would turn on and off to trigger the seconday Fail state. All of these elements were wired toegther through long chains of M/M, M/F and F/F wires, as the team had made a choice not to solder elements as it wasn't known how much length each piece would need when set up in the actual exhibit space.

Final Statement

After dedicating the semester to designing, developing, and implementing our prototype, the four of us in Team -11 were excited to present our work at the exhibition on June 2nd. We had created, a somewhat limited, but entirely functional proof of concept design that in line with the project brief was able to demonstrate the intended experience. Building on the earlier determined problem space we were able to incorporate a sense of novelty while utilizing future everyday technologies to influence human behaviour and values.

To ensure that all team members were able to contribute to the demonstrations we divided our pre-planned presentation among the four of us. Firstly, Introducing the team is Jack, who would then discuss the problem space. Rockie follows by explaining the intended concept, kicking off Abraham’s demonstration of the guest interaction. Xinkai closes the presentation with a run-through of our background research.

During the event Team -11 worked together to improve and perfect our pitch presentation, clearly communicating our concept and involving the guests in our demonstration. We guided guests through the interactive experience starting with depositing the guest's smartphone within the drawer, instructing the user to trigger a fail state, and locking the drawer. After the guest was unable to retrieve their belongings from the locked draw, Abraham led them through a success state, allowing them to unlock the draw. Following this Abraham guided the guest through a second fail state, triggered by the Ambient Light Sensor.

With only two minor hiccups during the entire exhibition our goal to utilize the drawer in our demonstration of Power Plants Internet of things Capabilities was ultimately a success. In preparation for the event we focused on building an interactive and functional intended experience rather than creating the best locking mechanism. Unfortunately through the rough use of the drawer from several attendees our lock mechanism lost some of it’s stability. We were able to remedy the issue by intermittently using super glue to strengthen the foundation, ensure the demonstration was able to proceed without issue. Early in the day our team was able to fix a damaged wire that was attached to the FSR sensor. The fix incorporated alternative cabling that lacked the length needed to place the sensor on the bed. The experience was un affected as we were able to manually hold the sensor and release it as guests interacted with the prototype.

Overall we were taken aback by the overwhelming support and positive feedback from the guests that attended the event. Attendees were able to relate to the problem space we targeted and even expressed how creative our prototype was. Furthermore, several guests expressed interest in purchasing the Power Plant should it come to the market. While power plant during the exhibition focused on healthy sleep habits more than one attendee mentioned that the potential possibilities would be endless and we couldn’t agree more.