Are you one of those who love having plants in the house but can never remember to give them water at the right time? What if your plants could tell you when it needs sunlight and water as you walk past them.
If you are someone who loves having house plants but needs constant reminders to nurture them and keep them alive, then you are not alone.
Now, imagine living in a world where your plants can talk and convey their needs.
A team of young students at the School of Art and Design (SoAD) have turned this dream into reality by developing Francesco, a smart pot that can communicate when his plant needs water, sunlight, or even your company.
Students Jasper Lang, Michelle Turner, Brinda Murlikrishna and Rebecca Faurby are the brains behind the project. Brinda is a Bachelor of Computing student, Jasper is pursuing a Bachelor of Software Engineering and Bachelor of Science degree, Michelle is studying a Bachelor of Law & Bachelor of Arts, and Rebecca is a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and Bachelor of Design student.
The ANU students came up with Francesco, that can detect when someone is walking past it and can communicate its needs and feelings as a plant.
“The project aims to bring attention to the way plants and humans interact. It increases the empathy people have towards plants by creating an emotional connection with them,” Jasper said.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need a Francesco for people walking by to value the life of a plant. Our project takes a bio-centric approach and aims to start a conversation on why we disregard and harm plants, just because they don’t communicate like humans,” Brinda said.
For some, putting a face to the plant is a reminder that it is alive. “Our project isn’t making this plant any more alive than it was yesterday. However, we tend to forget as humans that even though plants can’t talk to us, they are very much alive,” she said.
“Francesco is relatable and interacts in various tones similar to humans, making it easier to converse with it,” Michelle added.
The project uses a soil moisture sensor watering system, built into the smart pot, which helps detect when a plant needs water. It uses the sensor and a tube connected to a water tank and battery-powered motor, which is inserted into the soil of a plant, and detects its moisture levels as a value between 0 and 600.
“When the moisture level goes below a certain threshold, the water motor is activated and sends water to the plant through the tube until the threshold is reached. The thresholds can be altered for different plant species, and temperature and sunlight sensors can be added to ensure the plant is receiving maximum care,” Brinda added.
The students used electrocardiogram (ECG) waves to translate energy into sound and display. It also has speakers attached to Francesco that tells people what it needs when it senses someone nearby.
“All you have to do is get a little closer to Francesco and the magic will happen.”
“Francesco can be direct and sassy and it helps you to build a relationship with him,” Rebecca said. “Even though our project isn’t making this plant any more alive than it was yesterday but we tend to forget as humans that even though plants can’t communicate with us, they are very much alive. Putting a human face to it to remind us that it’s alive."
Written by Neha Attre