UPES student wields technology to design interactive plants
The project that uses Tangible User Interface (TUI) is a simple example of how one can efficiently use technology to connect with plants in unconventional ways
A multidisciplinary university, UPES continuously challenges its students to think critically. Education beyond classrooms, experiential learning, and holistic development prepares students for the real world. The university creates an environment where students are encouraged to dive into their passions.
Prateek Vishwakarma from M.Design in Industrial Designing is a testimony of UPES’s endeavours to inspire the best version within a student for improving the world.
Prateek has created Project Trixie, a technology that aims to develop a relatively new kind of interaction with plants. Talking about the inspiration behind the innovation, he says, “As a child, I remember paying a visit to my uncle’s house during vacations and spending time in nature. My uncle was extremely fond of plants and loved to keep different varieties in his farm. Every time I visited him, I would watch how he maintained his beautiful garden. He would always look for new stems, seeds, and buds. Gradually, I also developed an interest in plants. My uncle taught me how to grow a plant from seed, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“Days passed and until my next visit, the seed had germinated. A small plant had grown. I was completely fascinated and wanted to keep a plant in my room too. On the same day, I went to the nursery and got a plant for myself. Since I knew the procedure, it was easy for the first few days. I took proper care of the plant, the way my uncle did,” recalls Prateek.
However, during examinations, Prateek could not devote enough time to maintain his plants. “My semester exams kept me busy. Due to assignments, tuitions, projects, and irregular sleep schedules, I could not take care of the plant. I could not water the plant and as a result, the plant died.”
Grief-stricken, Prateek did not keep a plant until he was sure. When he did, he promised to take good care of it. During the semester break when he had to leave the town for twenty days, he gave the plant to his friend in the hostel and asked him to look after it. “Unfortunately, when I returned, the plant had almost dried. There were days when my friend gave a lot of water while at days he did not water the plant at all,” Prateek says with disappointment.
In both the cases, the plants could not survive due to absence of proper care. A nature lover, Prateek was now keen on finding a permanent solution to this problem and did some research on the same.
With rapid advancements in this technology-driven world, people tend to miss the importance of nature and this leads to the degradation of natural resources, including plants. This made him ponder, “Why are people losing the connection with nature, and how can we recreate this inevitable bond in today’s dynamic world?” This led to the conception of Project Trixie.
The project that uses Tangible User Interface (TUI) is a simple example of how we can efficiently use technology to help us connect with plants in unconventional ways.
Prateek along with his classmates Arushi Jindal and Yukta Sharma worked on this project. Dr. Anmol Srivastava, Assistant Professor from UPES School of Design, was the mentor. The project was inspired by ‘Botanicus Interacticus’, the work of Ivan Poupyrev and his team at Disney Research. The vision of the future where interactive devices are not manufactured but are living, growing organisms encouraged students to work in this domain for a sustainable, ecological future where expressions are not confined to humans and animals but are extended to plants as well.
The plant ‘Trixie’ can be used as an extension for functional uses in day-to-day lives with the incorporation of three basic features:
• Trixie responds by shaking whenever one greets it by calling out ‘Hi Trixie’.
• Trixie monitors real-time moisture content of the soil and gives reminders to pour water by blinking LED lights whenever the moisture level of the soil drops below a certain specified level.
• By simply touching Trixie, one can turn on the LED lamp and Trixie will turn itself into a lamp.
“When we feel low, spending some time in the park or looking at the sky rejuvenates us. This is because being close to nature helps in reducing mental fatigue and stress while increasing relaxation and self-esteem. Studies have shown that even brief exposure to nature can make us calm, altruistic and cooperative, and have a positive effect on our mental health. A healthy environment is the foundation of a balanced and productive society. To ensure the well-being of present and future generations, we must take necessary steps to protect, conserve, and sustainably manage our natural resources,” Prateek signs off.