Techno Tree

by Team Fluffy Groundhog

An interactive installation encourages reflection on our relationship with technology and nature through a playful interactive process.

Intended Concept

Techno Tree is an interactive installation that represents a dystopian futuristic world post-environmental cataclysm. The installation will serve as a tangible representation of a future where real trees are replaced by technology. Through this interactive process, it aims to deliver a frustrating experience that allows the user to reflect on whether the replacement of a mechanical tree is a desirable future. This is achieved through multiple layers of user input and feedback. When the user screws a flower onto the tree branch, it will cause another flower to fall. This was designed to deliver an unpleasant user experience and convey the message that technology requires frequent maintenance to function. If the user attempts to fix the flower multiple times, it indicates that they are willing to fix this piece of technology. If users do not regularly put flowers on the tree or try to "maintain" the flowers too many times, the tree will break.

Through this interaction, we aim to deliver a frustrating experience that makes the user ponder if the replacement of a mechanical tree is a future that they would look forward to. The purpose is to deduce whether people would prioritise fixing a broken technology over a dead tree through interaction attempts.

Technical Description

Software & Hardware

Force Sensor & Servo Motor
The force sensor is placed on a wooden board inside the tree branch. When the user places the flower on the branch, the force sensors detect the pressure, sending the value digitally to the Arduino Uno. When the value is greater than 200, the servo motor rotates, pulling the string attached to the flower and causing it to open. To create the effect of one flower being put on and another falling off, we connect four motors and four LEDs to four force sensors. The flowers were programmed to impact each other, with the force sensor detecting the presence of the flower and activating its respective motor and LED. For instance, when flower 0 is placed on the branch, the force sensor detects it and makes flower 0 open. When flower 1 is placed on the branch, the force sensor detects it and makes flower 1 open, causing flower 0 to fall off.

LED Lights
Before the interaction, the LED lights blink to attract the participants' attention when active within 50 metres radius of the tree. The LED lights turn on when the flowers open. If the user does not place more flowers onto the branch within ten seconds or after placing the flower on the branch 20 times, the flower will stop opening, and the LED lights will turn off.

Ultrasonic Distance Sensor
The Ultrasonic distance sensor detects the distance between the user and the device. All the LEDs are set to flashing mode when the distance exceeds to 50 metres. When the distance is less than or equal to 50 metres, the LEDs stop flashing, and flowers are ready for the user to interact with them.

Voice Feedback
Voice feedback is incorporated into our project to enhance the user's experience. The tree will greet users with "Welcome to Techno Tree" when approaching within 0.5 meters. When a user successfully places a flower on the branch, the tree will prompt with a "Ding!" sound. If a flower falls off, the tree will inform the user with an "Error flower needs fixing" or "Error flower has fallen out" message. If a user doesn't place more flowers on the branch within ten seconds or attempts multiple times, the tree will indicate the end of the interaction with a "Thanks for attending. The tree is now broken." message.

Physical Form

The flower that can open and close is a crucial part of our project. It has two layers made from cardboard and strings. The first layer is made by gluing thin pieces of cardboard onto a stick and wrapping string around them. The second layer is created by attaching cardboard pieces to a movable circle further down the stick and gluing it to the first layer. The flower can be opened and closed by pulling and releasing the string attached to the movable cardboard circle.

The tree is constructed using cardboard tubes with dark brown colours and paper spheres with different green colours to achieve a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar appearance of a tree.