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Photography: Master1305

DANCE OF THE AWN

SYNTHESIZING HUMAN AND PLANT MOVEMENT

2020-2021 | An ongoing research I initiated with Prof. Rivka Elbaum, the Lab of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture, The Hebrew University

How can computers and machines enhance human-nature interaction? Once the awn detaches the plant, it is in an eternal quest for planting its seed, through a distinguished movement forward. Its motion derives from the contraction and expansion of its inner structure. Depend on its surroundings, the awn, using its two hinges for leverage, can walk, jump, flip, and dig.

 

Mesmerized by this unique movement, I started examining the effect of varied substances and surfaces on the wild oat’s awn’s movement and realized that I could harness it in favor of design and function. Using natural plant dispersal mechanisms to create human-nature interaction, through computers and machines.

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An illustration of the device, slow movement activates one substance and fast movement the other

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Out of all the experiments I conducted, the material science approach managed to create the most direct and significant interaction between humans and plants. In the future, the research results can be used to design and control unique agricultural ecosystems. As a milestone, I have decided to design an interactive tool to intensify the connection between humans and nature by attributing the plant a human behavior. I chose two substances that generated polarized, human-like movements, one fast and frenetic, and another slow and calm, reminiscent of different dance styles.

Slow dance moves to activate the slow movement of the awn

Fast dance moves to speed the awn's movement

The system I designed detects and classifies the human movement in front of it using a motion sensor, and adjusts the plant’s rhythm accordingly. This correlated dance creates an emotional bond between nature and us. Through your body’s movement, you can make the plant go fast or slow down, flip and pivot and swirl in the air.

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An early sketch of the machine, an attempt to combine sensors to achieve accuracy. In the more advanced sketches, I have managed to achieve accuracy through the program using only one PIR sensor.

Method flowchart:

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The research joins a computerized machine, biology, and chemistry, and creates a dialog between humans and nature. Alike the automated industry, where human-like gestures are used to strengthen the bond and trust of humans in machines and to answer the user's emotional needs, my study and the artificial organic movement it creates allows meeting the biological need of contact with nature through design and science.

 

Usually, we do not get to witness the chain of events our action causes the environment. This research gives an opportunity of immediate consequence, I am moving and immediately the plant is affected by my action, thus holds an educational aspect on top of the interaction it creates.